On March 27-28, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Moscow at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh accompanied the Iranian leader. On the first day of the visit, H.Rouhani met with Russian Prime Minister D.Medvedev, and visited Lomonosov Moscow State University, where he was awarded the title of Honorary Professor of the Moscow University .
On March 28, 2017, H.Rouhani held talks with Russian President V.Putin.
The Russian leader noted long-standing diplomatic relations with Iran and called Iran a “reliable and stable partner” for Russia. In his turn, H.Rouhani pointed out that Iran and Russia are at “a new stage of relations” and expressed hope that the talks will contribute to further strengthening of comprehensive bilateral cooperation. H.Rouhani emphasized: “Our ultimate goal is to strengthen peace and stability in the region. And the development of our relations is not directed against third countries” .
The heads of states discussed the status and prospects of expanding Iran-Russia cooperation in trade, nuclear energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and in the scientific and cultural spheres. As a result of the talks, 16 intergovernmental, interagency and corporate documents were signed, as well as a joint statement of the leaders of the two countries .
Special emphasis was placed on the prospects of expanding trade, economic and investment ties between the two countries. V.Putin and H.Rouhani emphasized the need for the full implementation of the roadmap for cooperation in trade and industry, and supported the idea of creating a free trade zone between the EAEC and Iran.
The leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation expressed satisfaction with the volume of bilateral trade, which amounted to $ 2,2 billion in 2016 . Although this figure is 70% higher than in 2015, it does not fully reflect the potential of cooperation between the two states and does not correspond to the level of strategic interaction in the military-political sphere. Implementation of the “oil-for-goods program”, which has been under discussion since 2014, may give a new incentive for increasing trade turnover .
During the talks, 6 memorandums were signed on expanding cooperation in the energy sector. The RF will allocate state loans worth € 2,2 billion for the construction of a TPP in Bandar Abbas in the south of Iran and the electrification of the Garmsar-Ince Burun railroads in the north of Iran. € 1,2 billion of credit will be allocated for the construction of the Sirik TPP with a capacity of 1,4 GW, for a period of 5 years. A € 1 billion loan is to be allocated for the electrification of the railway .
In the presence of the heads of the IRI and the RF, Russian nuclear corporation “Rosatom” and Iranian Atomic Energy Organization signed a Memorandum on the development of cooperation in nuclear energy in the context of the transportation of nuclear materials. The parties drew attention to the successful operation of the first power unit of Bushehr NPP and discussed the implementation of two new power units of the station. In addition, H.Rouhani highly appreciated Russia’s assistance in implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and stressed that cooperation in this direction will continue .
V.Putin and H.Rouhani have agreed on cooperation of the two countries in the oil and gas sector. In particular, Russian companies will participate in the development of large hydrocarbon fields in Iran. At the same time, it was noted that Russia and Iran cooperate in the framework of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), and coordinate efforts to stabilize world oil markets . Following the talks, RF and IRI signed an agreement on visa-free tourist trips up to 90 days for citizens of the two states. V.Putin announced the possible supply of “Sukhoi Superjet-100” aircraft and helicopters to Iran.
During the talks, heads of states discussed issues of regional and international level. The parties expressed concern over the crises in the Middle East and North Africa and advocated the settlement of these crises in the framework of international law through an inclusive nationwide dialogue.
V.Putin and H.Rouhani discussed measures to counter international terrorism and extremism, as well as further joint actions aimed at the complete elimination of terrorist groups in the region. In particular, special attention was paid to the creation of a broad international coalition that would act on the basis of international law and the UN Charter, respecting the sovereignty of states directly affected by terrorist attacks.
The leaders of the RF and the IRI highly appreciated the joint actions to resolve the situation in Syria and stressed the need for military and diplomatic cooperation in the trilateral format Russia-Turkey-Iran. In this connection, the heads of the two states welcomed the Astana process of negotiations and agreed that the meetings in this format will be continued.
V.Putin and H.Rouhani called for further strengthening of cooperation within the framework of the UNO and in the regional format, which will contribute to the expansion of Asian dialogue. The parties supported Iran’s membership in the SCO and exchanged views on the forthcoming Fifth Caspian Summit in Astana.
V.Putin and H.Rouhani welcomed further strengthening of Iranian-Russian cooperation in various fields and agreed to hold a Russian-Iranian forum of interregional cooperation in Astrakhan at the end of 2017.
In general, the official visit of the President of the IRI H.Rouhani to the capital of the RF can be described as one of the most important historical moments that reflects the gradual expansion and deepening of diplomatic, trade and economic, investment, energy and military-political ties between the two friendly states. It should be noted that this is the first foreign visit of the President of Iran in 2017, and it is expected that no other visits will be made before the presidential elections in Iran.
The signing of a number of large-scale investment contracts shows that Iran and Russia are considering each other in the context of their long-term national interests. However, according to experts, the prospects for expanding trade ties may not be so great. This is evidenced by the similarity of economic structures between the countries: a commodity export orientation with a predominance of the hydrocarbon market. In addition, Russia does not have the capacity to act as a broad scale investor for Iran as Asia-Pacific countries. Nuclear power, oil and gas and railway industries will remain as priority areas for investment.
The military-strategic alliance of the IRI-RF pursues common goals – to preserve the unified state of Syria and strengthen its presence and influence in the region. The development of relations between the two countries will continue to play a key role in the settlement of the Syrian crisis and in the maintenance of peace and security in the Middle East. In this connection, the experts of the Russian “Nezavisimaya gazeta” state that Tehran becomes Moscow’s main partner in the Middle East .
At the same time, there are number of contradictions between Iran and Russia that could hamper the stable development of bilateral cooperation. Of course, each of the parties has its own interests in the region, as well as in relations with other countries. Some Middle Eastern mass media note that Iran and Russia “compete with each other in world energy markets and conflict over arms supplies” . Some Russian experts also write about the “pitfalls” of Iranian-Russian relations . In addition, it is important to take into account that the geopolitical situation in the Middle East can change at any time and put the implementation of large-scale plans by Iran and Russia under a big question.
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 Встреча с Президентом Ирана Хасаном Рухани //http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54119#sel=15:1:0gU,15:20:0gf.
 Путин и Роухани открыли новую страницу в истории российско-иранских отношений //http://tass.ru/politika/4133085.
 Iran-Russia trade surges 70% in 2016 //http://www.iran-daily.com/News/188123.html.
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 Путин: Россия будет осваивать крупные месторождения углеводородов в Иране //https://eadaily.com/ru/news/2017/03/28/putin-rossiya-budet-osvaivat-krupnye-mestorozhdeniya-uglevodorodov-v-irane.
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 Визит Роухани в Россию: опасения относительно Путина //http://inosmi.ru/politic/20170328/238975140.html.
 Жвирблис А. Подводные камни российско-иранского сотрудничества //https://www.bfm.ru/news/350332.