Iran’s oil minister has denied Tehran and Moscow are close to an agreement on an oil-for-goods swap, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Wednesday. Russia’s Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev was quoted on Nov. 30 as saying Russia hoped for an agreement soon on a deal to supply grain and equipment to Iran in return for oil, but Iran Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told Mehr there was no such plan in prospect.
“The idea of bartering Iranian oil in return for Russian commodities (goods) is not true and such an agreement has never taken place between the two countries,” he was quoted as saying. “Iran and Russia have merely agreed on bilateral cooperation in oil and gas industries, based on which Iran will take advantage of Russian firms’ technical and operational capabilities in its oil and gas industries,” he said, according to Mehr.
Russian and Iranian sources told Reuters in January that the two sides were discussing a barter deal worth up to $20 billion that would involve Moscow buying up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods. Such an agreement, if was reached, would enable Iran to significantly raise oil exports despite sanctions over its nuclear programme, and give the slowing Russian economy a much-needed boost. But it would also strain relations between Moscow and the West at a time when they are already frayed over the Ukraine crisis.
The United States has warned Russia that an oil-for-goods deal could run counter to nuclear talks between world powers and Iran and might fall foul of U.S. sanctions. Iran and the six powers last month gave themselves seven more months to resolve a standoff on Iran’s nuclear programme that has led to economic sanctions being imposed on Tehran, while extending the partial easing of those sanctions that followed an interim agreement.