Saturday, 21 April 2012

Russia and Iran restore cooperation despite UN sanctions

Russia and Iran continue to strengthen bilateral ties. The relations between Moscow and Teheran have strengthened considerably during the recent two decades. The two countries have signed a series of economic and defense agreements. The cooperation in the field of science and education has been developing steadily too. This week, it was reported that Iran has officially approved a new standard of education, in which the studies of the Russian language will become an inseparable part of the local school program. Until recently, Iranian schools had two mandatory disciplines - Farsi (the Persian language) and English. Now children and their parents can choose, which foreign language they can study. Students may choose from French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian languages. The news was reported by Fars News agency. The agency refers to official sources at the Education Ministry of the Islamic Republic. Iranian schoolchildren will be able to study Russian beginning with the sixth grade. It is quite possible that the studies of the Russian language will gain more importance at Iranian schools in the future. A remark from the chairman of the Supreme Council of Education Mehdi Navid clearly proved that Iran was going to pay much more attention to the studies of foreign languages in the country. "In those provinces where a certain foreign language is more necessary, the question will receive increased attention from the authorities," the official said. The Iranian authorities have always showed respect to the traditions of the Russian community. Russian migrants, who left the country during the civil war, and their descendants, have been living in Iran for more than 70 years. Two Orthodox churches are open in Teheran for all Orthodox Christians who either live in the country or visit as tourists. The development of relations between Russia and Iran began during the 1990s, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In April 1997, the two countries signed an agreement on trade and economic cooperation, which served the basis for the development of mutually beneficial commerce between the countries. Ten years later - in October 2007 - Vladimir Putin made his first visit to Iran. It became the first visit of a Russian leader to Iran in 50 years. The expansion of bilateral ties was regulated at the Memorandum about the development of economic and scientific cooperation in 2007. The commodity circulation between Russia and Iran continued to grow and reached $3 billion. Moscow and Teheran were improving their ties against the background of the international crisis connected with the Iranian nuclear program. The crisis started in 2003. Russia was building the first Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr, which raised concerns with the USA and its NATO allies. However, the Russian administration made a number of concessions for the West. Russia particularly suspended the delivery of S-300 systems to Teheran. The two countries currently try to restore the defense cooperation within the scope of the UN sanctions against Iran. Russia still insists on the diplomatic solution of the Iranian nuclear problem. Russian officials urge their US counterparts not to introduce new sanctions against Teheran. The Islamic Republic, being practically isolated from the world, is extremely interested in supporting the Kremlin. It appears that the decision to include the Russian language on the list of five foreign languages for Iranian schools is not incidental. This is rather a political question. Iran approaches Russia as a potential ally in the region. Studying the language and culture of a friendly country has always been an important instrument of developing cooperation in all fields of life. One should bear in mind the fact that Iran borders on Azerbaijan, where thousands of Russian-speaking people live. At the same time, the fact that Teheran has decided to make changes in the national school program means that the Iranian administration would like to be more open with the European Union. In practice, the novelty is supposed to increase the amount of European tourists coming to Iran. Moscow has received an important signal that says that Teheran considers Russia as a friendly nation for a long period of time, rather than for a period of joint economic projects.

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