Belarus’ Lukashenko in Tehran to do deals and shore up support

Belarus’ Lukashenko in Tehran to do deals and shore up support
Iran has reportedly offered Belarus help in getting around sanctions.
By Ben Aris in Belrin March 13, 2023

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed agreements that could result in benefits worth up to $100m during a trip to Iran on March 13 as top diplomats and presidents from both sides of the divide over the Ukraine war continue to tour the world to shore up support. Lukashenko's visit to Tehran was the first such visit in 17 years.

Speaking after a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Lukashenko said that the two countries "absolutely trust each other,” adding there was much potential for the two nations to strengthen ties and expand contacts. He also emphasised the importance of implementing all agreements reached without delay or red tape. Both countries are relatively isolated internationally and are burdened by Western sanctions.

"The experience of my communication with the former presidents of Iran and the negotiations that we have had suggest that the ongoing visit is remarkable as it will offer an opportunity to reach a new stage of our cooperation," BelTA news agency cited Lukashenko as saying during his meeting with Raisi in Tehran. Iran has reportedly offered Lukashenko help in getting around sanctions.

Lukashenko and Raisi signed a roadmap for cooperation until 2026. The document implies cooperation between Minsk and Tehran in the political, economic, scientific and technical, consular and educational fields, as well as in the tourism, media, culture and art sectors.

The heads of state also signed an action plan in honour of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries and an agreement on the transfer of convicts sentenced to imprisonment.

Lukashenko invited Raisi to visit Minsk at his convenience, expressing confidence that the signed road map, comprehensive cooperation plan and commercial contracts would lead to the development of a long-term partnership between the two countries.

As bne IntelliNews reported, Western and Russian diplomats have been travelling the world recently trying to shore up support in light of the clash caused by the war in Ukraine. In just the last week the West seems to have gotten the upper hand, after Turkey halted some controversial exports to Russia and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced he may “rethink” his relations with Moscow.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned Russian allies across the former Soviet Union against the perils of aligning with the United States after what Moscow said was a Western-backed coup attempt in Georgia similar to the Ukrainian "Maidan" revolution of 2014, when the government’s decision to vote on a “foreign agents” law provoked mass demonstrations on March 8.

"It seems to me that all the countries located around the Russian Federation should draw their own conclusions about how dangerous it is to take a path towards engagement with the United States' zone of responsibility, its zone of interests,” Lavrov said.

Iran has also been investing in its foreign policy with a decision agreed last week to restart diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in a deal brokered by Beijing that is seen as a strengthening of the Global South bloc in the growing East-West divide in geopolitics.

"Every time I watch with great respect how stubbornly your people resist external pressure and attempts to impose someone else's will and how, in spite of everything, you develop modern technology and nuclear power. And as we've agreed today with the president of Iran, we can be very useful to each other if we really join forces," BelTA agency quoted Lukashenko as telling Raisi.

As a close ally of Russia’s, Lukashenko was also in Beijing last week to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a show of solidarity.

China has been a major investor in Belarus, which it has been using as bridgehead into Europe. In September, Belarus built on those ties by starting out on the accession path into the Beijing led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Minsk and Beijing have signed a deepened strategic partnership.

Last year, trade between Belarus and Iran reached a record high. In 2022, it amounted to $100mn, more than three times higher than in 2021 ($33mn). The volume of Belarusian exports to Iran exceeded $81mn, having increased sixfold. Belarus mainly supplies Iran with potash fertilisers, timber and synthetic fibres and imports food products from Iran.