London, Asharq Al-Awsat—In what may be his final trip to the region, outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid tribute to Iranian-Russian nuclear ties against the sidelines of yesterday’s global gas summit in Moscow.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Moscow on Monday to participate in the 2nd Summit of Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF). He held talks with his foreign counterparts including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bolivian President Evo Morales.
On Tuesday, Ahmadinejad and Putin discussed Iranian-Russian bilateral ties as well as regional and international developments. During the meeting, Ahmadinejad emphasized: “Bushehr Nuclear Plant is a symbol of cooperation between Iran and Russia and we hope to expand this to the maximum level.”
“It is possible to extend this cooperation to build a new power plant,” he added.
Speaking during the meeting, Ahmadinejad revealed: “Preliminary discussions were held on this issue, and the corresponding decree…is expected to complete the work (for drafting the project) and start practical activities.”
Ahmadinejad highlighted Iranian-Russian bilateral cooperation in a number of fields, particularly the energy field.
“As President Putin mentioned, Iran and Russia are the two main gas exporters in the world, which makes the bilateral ties between the two countries beneficial to the global energy market,” Ahmadinejad said.
Ahmadinejad also met with senior Russian figures and intellectuals on Tuesday, during which he answered participants’ questions.
In response to a question about weapon trades between the two countries, Ahmadinejad said: “My colleagues are working on this matter and I hope everything will be sorted out perceptively. I see a bright future for bilateral ties and I cannot imagine anything stopping us from expanding our collaboration at different levels.”
Ahmadinejad stressed that “Iran and Russia share common views on the crisis in Syria. The Syrian people’s rights are a top priority but this cannot be achieved by war and terror. If a government comes to power with war and terror it would not be stable and enduring.”
Ahmadinejad addressed the 2nd GECF summit on Monday and urged gas producers to set a “fair and appropriate” pricing mechanism.
“Clear pricing mechanisms for different types of gas should be defined, approved and jointly implemented. Fair prices and supply of different sources of energy, especially gas, will tackle inequalities and prepare the grounds for the elimination of opportunism and monopoly,” President Ahmadinejad said.
“A number of countries try to impose their desired price on the global market through unilateral sanctions and political pressure,” he added.
Ahmadinejad also met with a group of Iranian families residing in the Russian capital on Monday evening. During the meeting, the outgoing Iranian president highlighted Iranian–Russian ties. He said, “The friendship between our two countries is certainly beneficial to both nations and the region. Fortunately, the Russian president also pursues a similar approach.”
“Of course, such ties have their enemies too, since hegemonic powers can never tolerate friendship between two countries and two nations; in fact, they always want to remain the chief of the world,” Ahmadinejad stated.
The GECF, whose first ministerial meeting was held in Tehran in May 2001, is an intergovernmental organization comprising 13 of the world’s leading natural gas producers, namely Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Observer states include Kazakhstan, Iraq, the Netherlands and Norway.
Back in Tehran, president-elect Hassan Rouhani has moved to secure the release of political prisoners. Former president Mohammad Khatami met with imprisoned human rights activist and lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been temporarily released from prison.
During the meeting, Khatami said: “I hope all political prisoners are released to further improve the newly relaxed atmosphere [in Iran]. It can help everyone to serve their country and people.”
Nasrin Sotoudeh highlighted the plight of Iranian political prisoners and urged fair trials for those being detained by the authorities, citing article 168 of the Iranian constitution.
Article 168 of the Iranian constitution reads: “Political and press offences will be tried by jury in open courts. The manner of the selection of the jury, its qualifications and powers, and the definition of political crimes, will be determined by law in accordance with Islamic criteria.”
Nasrin Sotoudeh has been in prison since September 2010. She was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment on charges of “acting against national security, collusion, propaganda against the regime, and membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center.”