Putin in Tehran wins strong support from Iran on Ukraine

On his second trip abroad since Russia launched the military action in February, Putin spoke with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the conflict in Syria, and he took advantage of this trip to discuss a UN-backed proposal to resume Ukrainian grain exports to alleviate the global food crisis.

Turkey, a member of NATO, has found itself facing Russia in bloody conflicts in Syria and Libya. He even sold deadly drones that Ukrainian forces used to attack Russian troops. But Ankara has not imposed sanctions on the Kremlin, making it an indispensable partner for Moscow. Struggling with runaway inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency, Turkey is also relying on the Russian market.

Erdogan made Putin wait almost a minute before entering the room for the talks, then praised what he described as Russia’s ‘very, very positive approach’ to the grain talks last week in Istanbul. He expressed hope that an agreement will be reached and that “the resulting outcome will have a positive impact on the whole world”.

Addressing Erdogan at the start of their meeting, Putin thanked him for his mediation to help “move forward” a deal on Ukrainian grain exports. “Not all the problems have been solved yet, but it’s good that there has been progress,” Putin added.

Officials from the UN, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey had reached an agreement in principle on aspects of a deal to secure the export of 22 million tonnes of grain and other desperately needed agricultural products trapped in Ukrainian Black Sea ports by the fighting. Reaching the deal would mark a major step towards easing a food crisis that has sent prices of vital commodities like wheat and barley soaring.

The trip to Tehran also holds symbolic significance for Putin’s domestic audience, showing Russia’s international influence even as it increasingly isolates itself and plunges deeper into confrontation with the West. It comes just days after US President Joe Biden visited Israel and Saudi Arabia – Tehran’s main rivals.

From Jerusalem and Jeddah, Biden urged Israel and Arab countries to push back against Russian, Chinese and Iranian influence that has grown with the perception of America’s withdrawal from the region.

It was a tough sell. Israel enjoys good relations with Putin, a necessity given the Russian presence in Syria, Israel’s northeast neighbor and frequent target of his airstrikes. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have refused to pump more oil beyond a plan approved by their energy alliance with Moscow.

But all countries – despite their longstanding rivalries – could agree to move closer to Iran, which has rapidly advanced its nuclear program since former US President Donald Trump abandoned Tehran’s atomic deal with Iran. world powers and reimposed crushing sanctions. Talks to restore the deal are at an impasse.

Cornered by the West and regional rivals, the Iranian government is accelerating uranium enrichment, suppressing dissent and grabbing headlines with optimistic and tough stances meant to prevent Iran’s currency, the rial, from collapsing . With no sanctions relief in sight, Iran’s tactical partnership with Russia has become one of survival, even as Moscow appears to be undermining Tehran’s black-market oil trade.

“Iran is (the) center of dynamic diplomacy,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian wrote on Twitter, adding that the meetings will “develop economic cooperation, focus on regional security… and ensure food security”.

Fadahossein Maleki, a member of Iran’s influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, on Monday described Russia as Iran’s “most strategic partner”. His comments belied decades of animosity stemming from Russia’s occupation of Iran during World War II – and its refusal to leave afterwards.

In a sign of increasingly close military cooperation, Russian officials have visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice in recent weeks to examine Tehran’s armed drones for possible use in Ukraine. , according to the White House.

Putin hailed the importance of close ties between Moscow and Tehran during his meetings with Iranian leaders.

“Our relations are developing at a good pace,” Putin said at the start of the meeting with Raisi, adding that the two countries have been working to “strengthen their international security cooperation and contribute significantly to the Syrian settlement.”

In a closing statement, he offered firm support to Tehran over the stalled nuclear deal, calling for its full relaunch and full lifting of sanctions against Iran to allow “free development of cooperation in all areas without any discrimination”.

During their trilateral talks, the presidents discussed the decade-old conflict in Syria, where Iran and Russia have backed the government of President Bashar Assad, while Turkey has backed armed opposition factions. Russia intervened in the conflict in 2015, joining forces with Iranian forces and using its air power to bolster Assad’s fledgling army.

Erdogan focused on Turkey’s action to push back US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters from its borders, following previous threats of a new military offensive in northern Syria. The planned operation is part of Turkey’s efforts to create a safe zone along its border with Syria that would encourage the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.

Erdogan said Turkey was determined to “drive out the centers of evil” that target Turkey’s security.

He said Ankara expects Russia and Iran to “support Turkey in this fight”, adding that the regions of Tel Rifaat and Manbij – where Turkey said it planned to send his troops – had turned into a “bed of terror”.

“The greatest favor that would be rendered to the Syrian people would be the complete withdrawal of the separatist terrorist organization from the territories it occupies,” Erdogan said.

In an apparent reference to Turkey’s concerns, the three presidents said in a joint statement that they “reject all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the guise of fighting terrorism, including self-reliance initiatives. illegitimate, and expressed their determination to oppose separatist programs.

Meanwhile, in an earlier separate meeting with Erdogan, Khamenei sternly warned against the planned Turkish incursion.

“Any kind of military attack in northern Syria will certainly harm Turkey, Syria and the whole region, and will benefit terrorists,” the Iranian leader said, stressing the need to “put an end to the matter through talks”.

Humanitarian issues in Syria have also been front and center since Russia used its UN Security Council veto last week to restrict aid deliveries to 4.1 million people in the north- rebel-held western Syria after six months, instead of a year. Erdogan stressed that six months was not enough.


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