Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Russians to benefit from US’ Iran withdrawal

AFP, MOSCOW

While Russia has condemned Washington for its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Moscow remains less exposed to the economic consequences of US sanctions than Europe and its companies could even benefit from the move.

“The deal and the lifting of sanctions in 2015 marked the return of European business to Iran, but it’s unlikely they can keep doing business today, giving room to Russia,” said independent political scientist Vladimir Sotnikov.

“Russia can now go ahead at full speed,” he added.

Russia and Iran had difficult relations in the past, but have seen ties improve since the end of the Cold War.

While Tehran was shunned by the international community in the 1990s, Moscow agreed to resume the construction of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant that Germany had abandoned.

Russia and Iran sought to strengthen their business ties long before the 2015 agreement, despite international sanctions.

“European companies are more exposed to the US market; they must comply not to get into trouble. The Russians are less [exposed] and have less to lose,” Franco-Russian Observatory analyst Igor Delanoe said.

Russian companies continued to work in Iran “without any fuss,” even when the sanctions were in place, he added.

“They are used to working within legal and economic constraints. The US has systematically forced Iran to turn more towards Russia and China,” Delanoe said.

The situation could revitalize Russian-Iranian economic ties that have been losing ground in the past few years despite the involvement of Russian nuclear and oil giants in the Middle Eastern country.

Bilateral trade amounted to US$1.7 billion last year, down 20 percent from the previous year and well below the more than US$3 billion in the late 2000s, Delanoe said.

During a visit to Tehran on Thursday, Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Ryabkov said the two countries intend to continue “all round economic cooperation.”

“We are not scared of sanctions,” Ryabkov said.

This echoes statements from China, which has also said it wants to continue normal business ties with Iran and is financing multibillion dollar infrastructure and electricity projects in the country.

“Russia wants to sell steel, transport infrastructure and other manufactured goods to Iran. The less competition from the US and the EU, the better,” Renaissance Capital analyst Charlie Robertson said.

Russia has a “real role to play” in Iran’s energy and electricity sectors, Delanoe said.

Another positive sign for the Russian economy is the rise in oil prices, which rose to their highest level since 2014 after the US withdrawal from the Iran deal.

Alfa Bank analysts said oil prices should remain high due to the tensions, which they said was a “great relief for the Russian market.”

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