Iranian President Mohammed Khatami and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow on March 12th, pledging to boost cooperation on nuclear energy and signing an agreement covering the status of the Caspian Sea.
Khatami’s visit to Moscow, the first by an Iranian leader in 25 years, signaled a new tide in relations between the two countries.
The agreement promises increased cooperation in nuclear energy beyond the construction of a reactor at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant.
The two leaders also signed a pact to oppose any pipelines across the sea bed of the Caspian. Putin and Khatami did not mention U.S. efforts to convince Kazakstan to begin shipments of oil across the sea to Turkey, instead of through Russia, but they did speak out against foreign intervention in the region.
Khatami said that: “Our region more than at any time in the past needs calm and stability. To achieve stability and peace we don’t need any extra-regional forces. Just the opposite, any alien presence may undermine the stability.”
Iran hopes to drum up Russian support for a plan to divide the energy riches of the Caspian Sea equally among the five bordering states – Russia, Iran, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Kazakstan and Azerbaijan have proposed an alternative plan that would give Iran only 13 percent.
Iran on March 9th signed an oil exploration contract in the Caspian Sea worth $226 million, marking the country’s first exploration attempt in the region. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said that: “We had to start oil exploration activities because others have started and we don’t want to be left behind.”
The contract was signed by members of a consortium involving Sweden’s GVA Consultants and the National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC). The project, expected to take 32 months to finish, involves building an oil rig on a submersible platform in the northern province of Manzandaran.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)