The presidents of Iran and Russia assign their foreign ministers to work out a roadmap for mutual cooperation over the next two decades, in their meeting in Moscow. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian says he and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov will start work on the plan as of tomorrow. He says Ebrahim Raeisi and Vladimir Putin discussed a spectrum of issues of mutual interest, with trade being at the heart of conversation. Iran’s Economy Minister Ehsan Khanduzi also says Tehran and Moscow have reached an agreement on facilitating bilateral banking transactions. He says they’ve agreed to accelerate projects based on a five-billion-dollar credit line, including three power generator stations and two rail and transit projects. Iran’s President arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for a two-day visit.
Fresh developments out of the South China Sea where tensions are ongoing. China says it has warned away a US warship near the Paracel Islands. The Chinese military says its naval and air forces tracked the USS Benfold after it illegally sailed into China’s territorial waters on Thursday. The army says Washington has two options. Either to stop such provocative moves, or bear the serious consequences of unforeseen events. But the US navy is repeating its long-standing claims that the warship asserted its navigational right that is allowed under international law. These exchanges show that the issue of South China Sea continues to remain a flashpoint in the bumpy relations between Beijing and Washington. China says the US frequently violates its sovereignty in the strategic waterways, and Washington challenges China’s territorial claims as unlawful.
The US president ups the ante against Russia in his inauguration anniversary presser, vowing to impose tough sanctions on Moscow if Ukraine is invaded. Biden says his guess is that Russian President Vladimir Putin will launch an incursion into Ukraine. However, he notes that Putin does not want a full-blown war. Biden warns that Russia will no longer be able to deal in dollars in case of an act of aggression. He adds that Washington could work out a plan whether to station 'strategic weapons' in Ukraine. Biden says it was unlikely that Ukraine could join NATO in the near term as it still needed to work on democratic reforms.