Russia and Iran sign deal to widen military cooperation

Tehran says agreement will ‘solve’ held-up sale of S-300 air defense system, without elaborating

A Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system on display at an undisclosed location in Russia (AP)
A Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system on display at an undisclosed location in Russia (AP)

MOSCOW — Russia and Iran have signed an agreement to expand their military ties and resolve a long-standing dispute over the sale of a controversial air defense system to the Islamic Republic.

In remarks carried by Russian news agencies, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in Tehran Tuesday that the new agreement includes expanded counter-terrorism cooperation, exchanges of military personnel for training purposes and an understanding for each country’s navy to more frequently use the other’s ports.

The deal provides for joint exercises and military training, as well as “cooperation in peacekeeping, maintaining regional and international security and stability, and fighting against separatism and extremism,” the Iranian Defense Ministry website said.

Russia has long been Iran’s principal foreign arms supplier but their ties took a major hit in 2010 when Moscow canceled a contract to deliver advanced S-300 ground to air missiles, citing UN sanctions imposed over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran demanded $4 billion in compensation for the cancellation of the $800 million order.

“The two countries have also decided to settle the S-300s problem,” the Iranian Defense ministry said on Tuesday without elaborating.

Shoigu did not mention any prospective arms deals or the ongoing controversy over the Russian contract to deliver the S-300 system to Iran.

Russia signed a 2007 contract to sell Tehran the S-300 system, but the weaponry was never delivered amid strong objections by the United States and Israel.

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan told state television that Iran and Russia had a “shared analysis of US global strategy, its interference in regional and international affairs and the need to cooperate in the struggle against the interference of foreign forces in the region.”

As Russia has been hit by Western sanctions over its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, it has stepped up its economic ties with Iran in the past year.

The two governments are also both allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad in his nearly four-year-old conflict with Western-backed rebels.

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