The US criticised president Vladimir Putin’s decision to lift a five-year ban on delivery of the S-300 air defence missile system, which would give the Islamic republic’s military a strong deterrent against air attacks.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest also expressed concern at a Russian-Iranian barter deal, which he said had been under discussion for months but had not yet been implemented.
He said such a deal would raise serious concerns and could interfere with sanctions the US and other Western nations imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed statements by a Russian diplomat that Moscow was already supplying Iran with various goods in exchange for oil. Peskov said this trade was not barred under sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.
In 2010, Russia linked its decision to freeze the S-300 delivery to the UN sanctions, but foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that the decision was taken voluntarily as part of efforts to encourage progress in talks.
After Russia suspended delivery, Iran accused Moscow of breach of contract and filed a lawsuit in Geneva seeking $4nn in damages.
Ali Shamkhani, who heads Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said in Moscow that the lawsuit would be withdrawn after delivery of the S-300s, which he said Iran expected to happen by the end of the year.
His Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, said delivery would take time. “It will depend on our manufacturers,” he said. “I believe they will need at least six months to complete this work.”
Lavrov said a preliminary agreement on settling the Iranian nuclear stand-off struck earlier this month made the S-300 ban unnecessary.
The framework deal reached by Iran and six world powers aims to significantly restrict Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons while giving it relief from international sanctions. The agreement is supposed to be finalised by June 30. There is no firm agreement yet on how or when to lift the international sanctions on Iran.