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Russia, Iran Discuss SWIFT-Free Interbank Settlements




Russia and Iran may become members of a blockchain-mediated payments network that would serve as an alternative to the SWIFT global banking system.

Though no project has been formally announced, recent statements by Russian and Iranian officials suggest that the two countries are mulling the establishment of a payments system that could create financial links between the two nations.

Mohammad Reza Pour Ebrahimi, head of the Iranian parliament's commission for economic affairs, said that cryptocurrency could prove a useful tool as the country seeks to help its financial institutions operate effectively without access to the "dollar, as well as the SWIFT system."

SWIFT is a global financial cooperative that enables its members, financial institutions, to settle high-value transfers across borders. Russia's central bank has indicated its intention to deploy a SWIFT-like system of its own on a blockchain network, possibly on the bank's Ethereum-based Masterchain platform.

The Iranian parliamentarian, who had discussed cryptocurrency with the economic policy committee in the lower house of Russian legislature, affirmed, "They share our opinion, we said that if we manage to promote this work, then we will be the first countries that use the cryptocurrency in the exchange of goods." This proposed used case – the exchange of goods – might create the need for large-scale settlements, which Russia's SWIFT-like system could theoretically provide.

Pour Ebrahimi made the remarks on the occasion of a meeting with Dmitry Mezentsev, the head of Russia's Council Committee on Economic Policy, where the Iranian official also took the opportunity to criticize US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

In essence, the agreement had stated that sanctions in place against Iran would be lifted and the country would accept increased international monitoring of domestic nuclear sites. In Pour Ebrahimi's words, Trump's withdrawal from the deal leaves Iran free to explore strategies for defending "its legitimate rights on economic issues."

The Russian and Iranian officials met amid speculation that Iran, which saw several of its banks allowed back into the SWIFT network in 2016 after some sanctions against the country were suspended, could once again be cut out of the network. (Recent developments out of the EU suggest that the European governing body might oppose such an action.)

Russia, which is also the subject of Western sanctions, recently received assurances from SWIFT executives that its banks would not be disconnected from the network. However, establishing its own SWIFT-like network with Iran as a member could bring the country benefits in the form of business from Iranian banks.

Speaking at the meeting, Mezentsev suggested that an interbank settlement system connecting the two countries would expand the markets for Russia's card-based payment system Mir, created in response to Visa and MasterCard cutting ties with some Russian banks following a 2014 round of US sanctions, and Iran's Shetab payment system. Some observers outside the government have also speculated that Russian banks using a SWIFT alternative could be less vulnerable to hacks than those using SWIFT itself.

Representatives of both countries will meet in Tehran on July 5 under the auspices of what Russian media describes as an "interbank working group on financial and interbank cooperation."

Translations by Google.

Adam Reese

Adam Reese is a Los Angeles-based writer interested in technology, domestic and international politics, social issues, infrastructure and the arts. Adam holds value in Ether, Bitcoin, and Monero.

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