Iran and Russia are gaining traction toward a potential multibillion-dollar oil pact that may lighten pressure on Tehran in nuclear talks, Reuters reports.
Russia could exchange nonmonetary goods for up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian petroleum each day under the possible arrangement, which may ultimately pave the way for as much as $20 billion in trade, insiders told the news agency for a Wednesday report. The unconfirmed claims came as Iran pursued talks with six world powers on potentially accepting long-term restrictions on its disputed nuclear activities in return for relief from international sanctions.
One expert on punitive economic measures said the petroleum plan "would ease further pressure on Iran's battered energy sector."
"If Washington can't stop this deal, it could serve as a signal to other countries that the United States won't risk major diplomatic disputes at the expense of the sanctions regime," according to Mark Dubowitz, who heads the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Washington and its allies hope such penalties will encourage Tehran to clear up global fears that its atomic activities are secretly aimed at establishing a nuclear-bomb capacity.
The U.S. State Department on Wednesday said it could not verify whether Tehran and Moscow had achieved momentum in the oil-swap talks, but spokeswoman Mare Harf said any resulting pact would be "inconsistent" with an interim atomic accord finalized in November. Harf also reaffirmed Washington's willingness to consider penalizing beneficiaries of the possible Iranian-Russian arrangement.
According to one Iranian insider, the possible pact would call for Moscow to supply Tehran with missiles, as well as help in constructing two new atomic facilities.
Meanwhile, specialists from Tehran were set on Thursday to begin four days of technical nuclear discussions with counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, Iran's Fars News Agency reported.