MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) – Russia is set to continue talks with Iran on a possible oil-for-goods swap that would make Moscow a major importer of Iranian oil despite concerns by the United States, the Kommersant business daily said Thursday, citing a Russian diplomatic source.
Washington says the deal would be in defiance of the Western sanctions that helped force Iran in November to sign an agreement to end its nuclear program, while Russia maintains it has no existing sanctions against Iran and is free to reach such a deal.
The Reuters news agency last week cited Iranian and Russian sources as saying that the two nations were negotiating a swap worth $1.5 billion that could see Russia buy up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil daily in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that the swap could generate sanctions against parties involved in such an agreement. Washington expects that the reported deal would increase Iran’s oil exports, which have been cut by more than half to about 1 million barrels a day by sanctions led by the US and European Union states over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The West fears Iran’s nuclear program could allow it to build a nuclear bomb. Iran says its program is peaceful.
A Russian government source told Kommersant that this would be not just an ordinary swap and would also involve money payments. He said a possible agreement might be reached regardless of the date when the Western sanctions on Iranian oil are lifted.
The sanctions relief for Tehran under the November deal struck by world powers and Iran’s government is due to be implemented by January 20.
“Russia does not violate any sanctions and is not obliged to coordinate such projects with anyone,” the Russian government source told Kommersant.
In a phone conversation Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his US counterpart, John Kerry, that Russia had a right to buy Iranian oil in any volumes and that Tehran could buy Russian-made goods.
The issue is expected to be discussed at a Thursday meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in Moscow, as well as during Putin’s upcoming visit to Iran, Kommersant reported.