West News Wire: Iran has stressed the importance of strong bilateral ties between Iran and Russia, stressing that nothing will be allowed to destroy the all-weather friends’ relationship.

In an interview with Russia’s Sputnik news agency, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said relations between Tehran and Moscow are “strategic” and must not be disrupted.

Since late February, when it launched a military operation in Ukraine, Russia has faced unprecedented economic penalties from the United States and European countries.

The sanctions placed on Russia are comparable to those imposed on Iran in 2018, when the US unilaterally withdrew from an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme and started a campaign of maximum economic pressure.

The two countries have significantly boosted their ties despite the US sanctions, with Iran signing an agreement with the Russia-led EAEU bloc of Eurasian economies.

Trade ties between Iran and Russia exceeded $4 billion in value terms over the Iranian calendar year to March. However, the two countries have insisted that the volume of trade could be more than doubled because of new geopolitical realities in the region.

Commenting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Khatibzadeh blamed the current situation in Ukraine on NATO’s eastward expansion and the West’s failure to take into consideration Russia’s security concerns.

In December last year, Moscow urged NATO not to allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join the Western military alliance.

It also called on the alliance to stop its military deployments to Ukraine and to withdraw its forces from Eastern Europe, demanding legally binding guarantees.

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The Russian demands were flatly rejected.

“NATO must know that the path of confrontation does not have a happy ending,” Khatibzadeh said.

Referring to Tehran’s efforts to achieve peace between Moscow and Kiev, Khatibzadeh expressed his country’s readiness to act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.

“Iran intends to launch a new round of efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine,” he announced.

Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

Iran has denounced the war but maintained that Russia’s military operation was triggered by NATO’s provocations.

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