Russian and Iranian sources close to the barter negotiations said
final details were in discussion for a deal that would see Moscow
buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for
Russian equipment and goods.
"Good progress is being made at the moment with strong chances of
success," said a Russian source. "We are discussing the details and
the date of signing a deal depends on those details." The Kremlin
"Our desire is to sign the deal as soon as possible," said a senior
Iranian official, who declined to be named. "Our officials are
discussing the matter with the Russians and hopefully it will be
inked soon, regardless of whether we can reach a (nuclear) agreement
It is not clear whether the deal would be implemented before the
nuclear agreement, outlined in Geneva in November between Iran and
six world powers, is finalized.
Nor is it clear how Moscow will justify to other powers a barter
deal that could jeopardize the nuclear negotiations by easing the
economic pressure on Tehran.
Russia is one of the countries involved in the nuclear talks but,
unlike the United States and the European Union, has not imposed
sanctions on Iran.
Technical nuclear talks between Iran and the European Union started
on Thursday. The November deal was designed to halt Iran's nuclear
advances for six months to buy time for a final settlement by May.
U.S. and European sanctions have cut Iran's oil exports by more than
half over the past 18 months to about one million barrels a day.
Russia has no sanctions on Iran.
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Russian purchases of 500,000 bpd of Iranian crude would lift Iran's
oil exports by 50 percent and provide a major boost to its
struggling economy. At current oil prices near $100 a barrel Iran
would earn about an additional $1.5 billion a month.
"Iran has to find a way to accommodate more exports: this is the
reason behind this," an Iranian official said. "Both sides should
rush for it. Russia will be able to guarantee a large amount of
trade with its neighbour and Iran will be able to overcome its
No details were available about the equipment and goods on offer
Given Russia is a major oil exporter, the Iranian oil would likely
be exported from Iran on Russia's account, with Russian goods and
equipment bartered in exchange.
Most Iranian oil goes to Asia.
Iran's biggest oil buyer is China, importing about 420,000 bpd in
2013. Unlike Iran's other oil buyers, China has not cut purchases
much, despite efforts from the United States.
Other major Asian buyers of Iranian oil including Japan, South Korea
and India have cut imports sharply under pressure from Washington.
Turkey and South Africa also have reduced or eliminated imports.
(Editing Richard Mably and Giles Elgood)
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