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EghtesadOnline: Russia’s co-chair of the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation announced on Wednesday that Iran has expressed interest in purchasing 12 Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ 100) airliners.

“Iran is interested in acquiring 12 Sukhoi Superjet 100 planes soon,” Alexander Novak also told Rossiya 24 broadcaster.

A source in the civil aviation regulator of the Islamic Republic of Iran familiar with the ongoing negotiations confirmed to Sputnik that one of the Iranian air carriers intends to purchase or lease Russian airliners.

The deal should be clarified in its entirety when Russia’s negotiators visit Iran, the source said, without elaborating on the dates of the visit, Financial Tribune reported.

“Iran is waiting for the Russian delegation for talks with the representatives of Iran’s civil aviation [regulators]. The possible purchase or lease of Russia’s SSJ100 airplanes as well as Russia’s technical servicing equipment and component parts and accessories is on the agenda. The deal should be clarified upon the results of the talks,” the source said.

Novak, who is also Russia’s energy minister, visited Iran to attend the inauguration ceremony of a 1,400-megawatt thermal power plant project, financed to the tune of €1.2 billion by Russia in the city of Sirik, southern Iran.

Russia’s online newspaper Vzglyad reported that Russia has also offered to launch the joint production of Russia’s twin-engine turboprop airliner the Ilyushin Il-114, which is designed for local routes.

According to Novak, Moscow is interested in setting up production facilities in Iran, which will manufacture components for Russian airliners.

“Russian companies are now working with their Iranian partners on concrete suggestions and further decisions,” the outlet quoted him as saying.

The newspaper, however, reminded that last week, Russia’s deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry, Dmitry Rogozin, cancelled his trip to Iran due to some “technical issues”.

According to the Russian media, Rogozin was set to visit Tehran on February 13 to hold talks on the expansion of technology and defense cooperation with Iran’s VicePresident for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari and Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan.

Rogozin was also expected to discuss the prospects of further bilateral cooperation, particularly in the field of aircraft manufacture and the purchase of Russian aircraft by the Islamic Republic.

  A Reorientation?

The outlet did not rule out that the so-called thaw in Iran’s position toward Russian equipment was forced by the “cooling down” of relations between Iran and Washington. 

Semyon Bagdasarov, the head of the Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies, has suggested that the above developments can be explained by “the real assessment by Iranians of the situation which is being set up in the Middle East” and by the “anti-Iranian remarks of Donald Trump”.

“Tehran understands only too well that there is a tough fight coming in the Middle East between the US and Israel, and a number of Persian Gulf states on the one hand, and Iran on the other hand. And Tehran is getting ready for it,” Bagdasarov told Vzglyad.

When it becomes “too hot”, he elaborated, Iran starts talking about closer cooperation with Russia. He noted that in 2015, after the Iranian nuclear deal, the West started easing anti-Iranian sanctions and Tehran used a different approach toward Russia.

He said the attitude was basically that “If we can get money and technology from you, it is good, but actually we are oriented more towards the West”.

However, Bagdasarov noted that the situation is changing once again and life is forcing Tehran to reorient itself.

Sergei Seregichev, an expert at the Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, has provided another reason behind what he called “Iran’s maneuvers”.

“Iran is interested in setting up cooperation with Washington to a larger degree than with Moscow,” he told Vzglyad.

“Russia does not pose a threat to Iran, just as Iran does not pose a threat to Russia. Meanwhile, the US poses a large threat to Tehran; more so, when lack of clarity is taken into account in the practical implementation of Donald Trump’s “Iranian theses.”

Seregichev further suggested that what is going on right now is “simple eastern bargaining.”

Commenting on the possible purchase of Russia’s Superjets, the expert doubted that Iran is really interested in acquiring these airliners. He suggested that by the time the deal is actually ready to be signed, the international situation may have changed sharply.

Besides, he said, there is no guarantee that it will ever get to sign the contract. 

“Iran does not trust us. It is enough to recall the situation with the deliveries of S-300 (which Russia cancelled in 2010 after the UN imposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program). Iran remembers it and has made certain conclusions,” Seregichev concluded.

Domestic Longs Prices Rise

Prices for long products in Iran increased over a three-week period owing mainly to the recent agreement between Iranian mills to cut production to support prices. Domestic demand, however, did not improve much.

Most Iranian long steel sellers tried to raise their prices, with the highest increase seen for billets and wire rod. This is while the rise in rebar price was comparatively lower. 

“These fluctuations were not because of higher demand. Producers were changing market direction with their policies,” a market source said.

As Metal Expert reported earlier, Iranian longs suppliers agreed to reduce production by about 20% to support prices after some sizable drops in January.

Iranian exporters are currently experiencing less pressure from the domestic sales. Esfahan Steel Company, in particular, which cooperates with overseas buyers, is currently offering its rebar to local customers at the lower end of the general price range.

The activity on Iranian Mercantile Exchange has been quite low in February, proving that the overall demand for longs is slack. Total sales reached 49,285 tons of longs and billets over the period. 

ESCO sold the largest lot (30,000 tons) of rebar and beams for March delivery.

Iran Aviation Iran-Russia Trade Iran aircrafts Sukhoi Sukhoi Superjet 100 SSJ 100