A Former senior Iranian lawmaker has said that the crisis in Ukraine provides a golden opportunity for Iran to get a foothold in international energy markets.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh who was the chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee added that although Russia pretended to be protecting Iran in some of the challenges Tehran faced, but Moscow has taken away Iran's opportunity for cooperation with Europe.

He was referring to the history of Tehran-Moscow ties since 2003 when Iran was engaged in nuclear talks with Europe. Falahatpisheh claimed that during this period, the Russians prevented Iran from cooperation with Europe in the areas of energy and establishing gas pipelines to Europe.

In an interview with Etemad Online published on Friday, the conservative politician said that the world is now confronting Russia and Iran should seize this opportunity to reclaim a stronger position in the energy market. This has been consistent with other remarks the senior politician has made recently, calling for direct talks with the United States.

On the issue of Ukraine, Falahatpisheh argued that the West may have to retreat to an extent: "One of the solutions to the problem is that the West including the United States should accept Russia's demand for stopping the eastbound expansion of NATO. Doing so, will, of course, be a defeat for NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program."

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a conservative politician calling for change in Iran's foreign policy.

Falahatpisheh explained that the PfP, which was formed in 1994, is a program of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO, which allows partners to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation. Based on this program NATO shifted from its defensive nature to an offensive position, Falahatpisheh said.

He said that Russia in the meantime used international economic dynamics to establish its position as the world's energy highway. He added that that Russia in this period “robbed Iran of opportunities to cooperate with Europe” in supplying energy adding that Moscwow followed the same policy toward Iran's other economic activities.

Falahatpisheh observed that while Iran has the world's second largest natural gas reserves, it holds only one percent of international gas trade. He added that the world is now thirsty for natural gas and Iran should gain markets around the world instead of allowing Russia to waste its time.

Stressing that "Russia's opportunism took advantage of Iran's challenges with the West, it is now time for Iran to seize the opportunity of the war in Ukraine, solve its problems with the West and regain its position in the global energy market."

Meanwhile, Iran’s Friday Prayer Imams, receiving central guidance for their Friday sermons, continued to use Ukraine’s invasion to bash the United States and claim the West has abandoned the Ukrainians.

Qazvin’s Imam Abdolkarim Abedini using the occasion to unleash an attack on the US said that Washington has abandoned its own “vassal”, the president of Ukraine, “the same way it abandoned, the Shah, Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein.” He added that Americans want to disarm Iran the same way they took away Ukraine’s nuclear weapons (in 1990s).

Others repeated the official government line that the US is responsible for provoking the war, not even mentioning Russia.

The only minor exception was a sentence uttered by Mohammad Hossein Aboutorabi Fard who led Tehran's Friday prayers on March 18. He said: "We are sorry for the people of Ukraine, and we never welcome war and invasion."

However, Aboutorabi called the wave of international sympathy “shedding alligator tears for Ukraine.”

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