In a move openly defiant of the West, Russia on April 11 pledged to continue its pursuit of friendly relations with Iran despite a court decision in Germany one day earlier that has lead to a diplomatic breach between Tehran and the European Union. "We have good, positive cooperation with Iran, which shows a tendency to increase," Russian president Boris Yeltsin said during talks in Moscow with Ali Akbar Nateq-Noori, head of Iran’s parliament. Nateq-Noori, meanwhile, received a standing ovation prior to an address before the Russian parliament, and in an appearance with Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev called upon Russia and Iran to "coordinate their foreign policies to oppose expansion by some Western nations in both Europe and the Middle East." Seleznev and Nateq-Noori also signed a protocol on parliamentary cooperation, while Russian and Iranian deputy foreign ministers Viktor Posuvalyuk and Mahmud Va’ezi, respectively, signed an intergovernmental memorandum of understanding on export control.
Moscow’s arms sales to Iran, together with its determination to finish construction of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, have long been an irritant in the Kremlin’s relations with Washington, but Russia’s latest embrace of Tehran could now raise tensions with Europe as well. On April 11 a German court ruled that Iran had ordered the killing of four Iranian Kurds in Berlin in 1992. The court decision led Bonn to expel four Iranian diplomats and to suspend its policy of maintaining good economic relations with Iran. The European Union backed Germany’s move, and invited member states to recall their ambassadors from Tehran. But Seleznev dismissed the ruling by the German court and said it would not effect Russian-Iranian relations. Nateq-Noori, for his part, appeared happy to use his enthusiastic welcome in Moscow as a platform from which to taunt the West. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, April 11; The New York Times, April 12)
The latest developments come at an awkward time for Moscow and Bonn, as Boris Yeltsin is scheduled to visit his old friend, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in Germany on April 16-17. They also come against the broader background of Moscow’s struggle with the West over NATO enlargement. The Kremlin’s reaffirmation of ties to Iran is part of its effort both to counter the West’s decision to proceed with enlargement — by seeking allies elsewhere — and to demonstrate to the world and to Russia’s nationalists that the Yeltsin government continues to pursue an independent foreign policy.
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