This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service. Danila Galperovich of VOA’s Russian Service contributed.
A Russian bid to defy U.S. sanctions on Iran appears to have failed, with Russian energy experts saying Moscow has made no recent purchases of Iranian oil as part of a sputtering 2014 deal with Tehran.
Russian state media have said that under the August 2014 memorandum, which was never published in full, Moscow agreed to buy Iranian oil in order to deliver it to international customers, while Iran would use the payments received from Russia to buy and import Russian goods. Iranian state media have said only half of the received Russian funds would be used to buy Russian imports.
The two sides reached the agreement on what they called an “oil for goods” program at a time when Iran was under a previous round of international sanctions against its oil exports. Russia said the deal was intended to boost trade ties with Iran, a longtime purchaser of Russian weapons. It was not aimed at delivering Iranian crude to the territory of Russia, already one of the world’s top oil producers.
Moscow announced a brief suspension of the program in 2016 after having failed to get it operational. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the program was no longer necessary because oil sanctions on Iran had been lifted that year. The sanctions relief was Iran’s reward for a 2015 deal with world powers, in which it promised to restrict nuclear activities that could be diverted to making bombs.
Russia began talks with Iran to revive the program in February 2017 after the inauguration a month earlier of U.S. President Donald Trump, who had campaigned on withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal. In May 2017, Russia and Iran declared a new agreement for Moscow to buy 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, equivalent to 5 million tons of oil per year (1 metric ton equals 7.33 barrels).
Russian media said Moscow secured its first, and so far only, Iranian oil delivery in November 2017, in the form of a tanker carrying just 1 million barrels, or about 136,000 tons, of crude. They did not specify to which country Moscow’s energy ministry re-sold the oil through Russian state-owned trading unit Promsyrioimport.
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