Russia, Iran step up telephone diplomacy amid pandemic, says envoy

TASS – The coronavirus spread has not brought about any noticeable changes in bilateral cooperation in the sphere of civil nuclear power engineering, the Russian diplomat said.

The Russian and Iranian sides stopped personal contacts at the highest level amid the coronavirus spread but stepped up telephone diplomacy, Russia’s Ambassador to Tehran Levan Dzhagaryan told TASS on Tuesday.

“Personal contacts stopped and telephone diplomacy intensified,” he said in an interview timed for the centenary of the Russian-Iranian relations.

As the Russian diplomat pointed out, “this is very important but this option cannot replace the effectiveness of personal meetings.” “Despite all the difficulties, we are seeking to make the most of the remaining possibilities,” he added.

Despite the coronavirus, trade between Russia and Iran continues, the Russian diplomat said. “A transport link via the Caspian Sea exists and freight auto transport remains. Fruits and vegetables are imported from Iran into Russia and we are issuing multiple visas to Iranian drivers,” he said.

The main change in bilateral trade and economic cooperation caused by the pandemic has been the impossibility of visits by Russian and Iranian delegations, the envoy said. “Thus, a meeting of the inter-governmental commission was planned in Vladikavkaz in June. Considering the current situation, it will hardly be held.”

Civil nuclear power cooperation flagship

The coronavirus spread has not brought about any noticeable changes in bilateral cooperation in the sphere of civil nuclear power engineering, the Russian diplomat said.

“The work of specialists on the site [the Bushehr nuclear power plant] continues,” Dzhagaryan stated. “The personnel are taking all necessary precaution measures and are complying with social distancing requirements,” he added.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran was built by Russia. The plans agreed by Moscow and Tehran envisage the construction of the second and third power units on the territory of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

In 1995, Russia’s Zarubezhatomenergostroi (currently Atomstroyexport) signed a contract with Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization on completing the construction and upgrading the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. In September 2011, the Bushehr first power unit was connected to the power grid and its official handover to Iran took place in September 2013.