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Israel, Iran set to sign free-trade agreements with Russian-led EAEU: report

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Yuri Kadobnov/ Pool photo via AP
The separate agreements are bilateral in nature, will not allow Israel to trade freely with Iran

Israel and Iran - two Middle Eastern countries with extremely hostile relations - are reportedly both expected to enter into free-trade agreement with the Russian-directed Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Times of Israel on Tuesday quoted Israeli and Russian officials stating the new free-trade agreement (FTA) is the product of nearly a year of negotiations between Jerusalem and Moscow.

“The negotiations with the EAEU were launched in Moscow in April 2018, following positive results of a comprehensive Joint Feasibility Study conducted by the parties,” a spokesperson from Israel’s economic ministry told TOI.

“The agreement will cover various aspects of trade in goods, such as rules of origin, customs cooperation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and Phytosanitary measures, e-commerce, dispute settlement, and others,” the official is quoted as saying.

The report on Israel’s FTA with the EAEU comes after a Friday announcement from Iran’s ambassador to Russia stating he expects Iranian lawmakers to ratify their own FTA with the Russian-led union “in the near future,” according to a report from the Iranian Mehr news agency.

“The agreement is very important for Iran… because it opens the gates to a big market for our country, and also opens the Iranian market to Russia and northern countries,” Ambassador Mehdi Sanaei is quoted as saying.

STRINGER (IRANIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP)

The separate agreements are bilateral in nature; therefore, they will not allow Israel to trade freely with Iran or other countries in FTAs with the EAEU.

Iran and Israel have had hostile relations since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979.

Israel - which condemned the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal initiated by then US President Barack Obama - advocates for increased global pressure on Iran's economy in order to deter its development of nuclear weapons.

After an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander threatened to “raze Tel Aviv and Haifa” to the ground at an event marking the revolution's 40th anniversary, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back that this would be the “last anniversary” Tehran celebrates if it attacks Israel.

According to statements from Moscow’s deputy industry minister Sergey Tsyb as reported in pro-Kremlin Russia Today, the EAEU will enter FTA’s with a number of countries “in the near future,” namely Egypt, India, and Singapore.

Tsyp said the Moscow believes “it would be very productive if we actively move toward the conclusion of agreements on the free-trade zone,” citing over 7,500 non-tariff measures currently used by countries belonging to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

- Israel-Russia ties -

The reports come on the heels of a new FTA between Israel and the Ukraine signed during Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s visit to the Jewish state last month.

Haim Zach (GPO)

Poroshenko, who is one of Russian President Vladmir Putin’s greatest political rivals, made his first visit to Israel since 2015.

The Ukrainian leader’s visit came as Israel and Russia were suffering increased tension following the downing of a Russian jet in Syria in September 2018.

Israel declined to acknowledge claims that relations with Russia were strained after the incident.

Toward the end of his speech preceding the bilateral signing, Netanyahu said that Israel and Ukraine are part of the “same civilization” that is “under attack, especially by the forces of radical Islam.”

Addressing the recent escalation between Israel and Iran in Syria, Netanyahu called Iran the “strongest force of radical Islam” in the world.

“Israel retains its basic right to defend itself, even in preventative actions. This is a right every state has,” Netanyahu concluded.

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