Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak says Moscow is weighing efforts to boost support for embattled Iran's oil industry, which is currently the target of crippling U.S. sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to negotiate new curbs on its nuclear and missile programs.
Novak was speaking at a three-day economic forum in Vladivostok on September 5 where he and Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin are courting senior officials from India, Japan, Malaysia, and Mongolia, among others.
Oil- and gas-rich Russia would undertake such a plan with Iran "primarily for the development of the oil sector," Novak suggested.
Novak met in Moscow earlier this week with Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian.
Ardakanian was quoted afterward as saying that Russians were considering some $10 billion in investment into Iran's oil sector.
The statements come amid a tightening of U.S. pressure on Tehran through trade and economic sanctions reimposed after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States last year from a three-year-old nuclear deal that limited Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
The result of what Trump administration officials describe as a campaign of "maximum pressure" has been a stifled Iranian economy and currency.
'Oil For Terror'
Iran this week announced it was taking a "third step" to scale back its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, whose signatories include Russia and China, in addition to France, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
"From Friday [September 6], we will witness research and development on different kinds of centrifuges and new centrifuges and also whatever is needed for enriching uranium in an accelerated way," Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on September 4, adding, "All limitations on our research and development will be lifted on Friday."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued on September 5 that "this is not the time to have talks with Iran, it is the time to step up pressure on Iran."
The U.S. State and Treasury departments on September 4 heaped more sanctions on Iran and offered monetary rewards for "actionable" information on what they call Tehran’s "oil-for-terror" network.
More than 25 entities and 11 vessels were sanctioned that the Treasury Department says are part of a network "directed by and [which] financially supports" the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) foreign arm, the Quds Force, and the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia movement Hizballah.
"This network has moved hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of illicit oil. That money is then used to fund terrorism," Brian Hook, the State Department's special representative for Iran, said in a briefing on September 4.