The commander of Iran’s Navy says Iranian and Russian armed forces have signed a "classified" deal to expand cooperation through a series of projects, one of which will be joint military drills in the Persian Gulf before the end of the year.
Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi made the announcement during the opening ceremony of an international military diving competition in the southern Iranian Kish Island on Sunday.
The Admiral said he signed the deal with the Russian Defense Ministry on behalf of Iran's General Staff of the Armed Forces during his trip to Moscow last week.
"Some articles of this agreement are classified but overall, it is aimed at expanding military cooperation between the two countries," he said.
"Of course, a large part of it includes the naval forces of the two countries and the agreement can be called the first of its kind between the two sides," he said, going on to call the agreement a "turning point" in military to military ties between Iran and Russia.
UK, US attempts at escalation in Persian Gulf 'insignificant
Khanzadi also dismissed as insignificant recent actions by the United States and the United Kingdom to escalate the situation in the Persian Gulf region.
He made the remarks on after being asked about his opinion on the developments concerning the region over the past weeks, Fars News Agency reported.
“Nothing has happened in the region…and the show that arrogant countries, most importantly the US and the UK, put on is only a big bluff and a dishonest act aimed to create the impression that the region is unsafe,” he said.
“This is while the region is perfectly safe,” the official said, calling the efforts futile.
The United States has been pushing its regional allies to form a coalition force that would supposedly ensure the safety of foreign vessels sailing through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.
Britain has also dispatched three warships to the Persian Gulf after Iranian forces detained a British tanker that had collided with a fishing boat in the Strait and refused to heed its distress calls afterwards.
Both Washington and London have been trying to justify escalation in the strategic waters by accusing Iran of trying to destabilize shipping activities in the Persian Gulf in response to renewed American sanctions, specially on its exports.
Tehran has vowed to keep selling its oil despite the bans, but has invariably spurned using violence to make that happen.
Key Washington allies Germany and Japan have, meanwhile, refused to join the US-proposed force, and France has expressed reservations.
Bloomberg also reported that the US’s efforts to build the coalition “continue to bear little fruit,” noting that major ally Australia was still undecided whether to join.
It cited Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds as saying after a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Sydney on Sunday, that Canberra was "deeply concerned" about heightened tensions in the region, and called the US request "a very serious one, and it is a complex one."
Former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, meanwhile, warned against supporting any such US-led mission, saying that any such coalition would ensure a direct, large-scale military conflict between the US and Iran.
“It’s altogether appropriate for the Australian ministers to take their time with this request from our US ally,” he said.
Joint Iran-Russia drills
Khanzadi also pointed to the prospect of joint naval maneuvers by Iranian and Russian forces in the future.
He said an agreement had been signed between Iranian and Russian naval officials in this regard last week, and that the drills will go underway by the end of year.