Sign of growing ties: Putin visits Tehran, meeting with Erdogan on agenda

Moscow sees Iran “as a reliable partner and a like-minded nation amid global changes.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Russian President Vladimir Putin is meeting Tuesday with Iranian and Turkish leaders in Tehran in his second trip abroad since ordering his country’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Western pundits say that the timing reflects Moscow’s turn to regional powerhouses to counter American reassertion of leadership in the Middle East. It follows U.S. President Joe Biden’s just-concluded visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s biggest local rivals, when he encouraged anti-Iranian forces to draw closer together.

When briefing reporters Monday on the trip, foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said that global issues would be discussed, such as a way to unblock Ukrainian ports so that its much-needed grain could be exported once again. Ukraine supplies about 10% of the world’s wheat and up to 16% of its corn. Prices of bread are shooting up around the world due to the Russian clampdown on Ukraine’s southern shore.

The nuclear deal, negotiations in which Russia played an active role before the process stalled several months ago, will be another important topic.

Russia and Iran also shared “a desire to take their relations to a new level of strategic partnership,” Ushakov said, as the Islamic regime “is an important partner for Russia.”

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This follows National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s charges last week that Iran was ready to sell Russia “up to several hundred” weaponized drones, which could help in its ongoing military campaign, and is already training Russian soldiers in their use. Iran denied the claim outright.

The tightening ties are set to be long-term. The Tass news agency quoted Russian Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov as saying that Moscow saw Iran “as a reliable partner and a like-minded nation amid global changes.”

The two countries, he added, are working on “a strong cooperation framework for the next 20-25 years.”

Putin will also hold tripartite discussions with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Turkish President Recep Erdogan on Syria, where all three countries have areas of influence. Iran and Russia are allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Turkey supports anti-government militias.

The three have met six times before on the subject in the so-called Astana Process. This meeting’s issues, said the Turkish president’s office, include “the fight against terrorist organizations posing threats to the region’s security, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party…reaching a political solution, the humanitarian situation and the problem of voluntary return of Syrian refugees.”

Erdogan recently threatened a new offensive along its border with Syria against what he refers to as a Kurdish terrorist group, but so far Russia has opposed the move.