Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov rejected on Friday that Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of elite Quds Force in Iran's Revolutionary Guard had visited Moscow last month.
"Last week Moscow had informed Washington that Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, had not visited Moscow," Ryabkov told reporters on Friday.
The US State Department spokesman John Kirby drew attention to the issue as he expressed that the US Secretary of State John Kerry had raised the US concerns over Soleimani’s alleged visit to Moscow during a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
"[T]he Secretary also raised concerns about the travel to Moscow by IRGC Commander Qasem Soleimani," Kirby said.
The US accuses the Kremlin leadership of hosting Soleimani in a violation of the UN Security Council’s resolution which subjected him with an international travel ban and asset freeze as part of the Iranian sanction regime since 2007.
Soleimani is known for his influential role in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard which is believed to have been shaping Iranian foreign security policy regarding the Middle East crises in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.
“If it happened it would be a violation of Security Council resolutions,” Kirby told reporters and added that it was “certainly then a matter of serious concerns to the United States."
The Iranian top general was said to have visited Moscow on July 24 despite his travel ban, according to an Iranian official who told Reuters on the condition of anonymity last week.
But the Russian side announced on Friday that Soleimani has never visited Moscow and assured Washington as Ryabkov told reporters that he has no information whatsoever that Solemani allegedly travelled to Russia.
The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also confirmed that Putin did not meet with the Iranian commander, Russia’s Ria Novosti Agency reported last week upon the US allegations.
Previously American Fox News Channel has asserted that Soleimani had visited Moscow where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu with whom he held talk on the regional security issues as well as the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles and other weapons to Tehran.
As the nuclear talks yielded a concrete result this year with the West, Iran accelerated its military cooperation with Russia which in return announced lifting a ban on selling of the S-300 missile defence system to Tehran in April.
Iran has welcomed Russia’s act of lifting ban on the aforementioned missile deal as the Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan claimed that Moscow’s decision to end ban could “lead to stability” in the region.
The deal supplying S-300 missile defence system to Iran had been signed in 2007, but it was suspended unilaterally by Russia when the UN Security Council imposed an arm embargo over Iran.
Russia was Iran’s principal foreign arm supplier since Moscow has long been backing Iran’s nuclear programme vis-à-vis the West.
Soleimani’s alleged trip to Moscow is expected to create a blow against the Iranian nuclear agreement among its Republican opponents who prepare to reject the deal in the US Congress in days to come.
Kerry cast an argument in a feverish battle to prevent US lawmakers in the Congress from killing the July 14 nuclear deal which was agreed after a long-lasting marathon talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries, including the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.
The deal suggests Iran to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the removal of UN sanctions and arms embargo over the country as well as releasing the country’s 100 billion dollars worth of assets around the world.
The Iran nuclear deal must be endorsed by the US Congress until Sept. 17 in order to lift sanction regime over Iran where radical political wing also opposes a Western-imposed nuclear settlement.