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  • Vladimir Putin heads to Tehran for talks with leaders of Iran, Turkey

Vladimir Putin heads to Tehran for talks with leaders of Iran, Turkey

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to bolster ties with Tehran, a fellow target of severe US sanctions and a potential military and trade partner. (Sputnik via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to bolster ties with Tehran, a fellow target of severe US sanctions and a potential military and trade partner. (Sputnik via AP)
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19 Jul 2022 06:07:41 GMT9
19 Jul 2022 06:07:41 GMT9
  • Only his second trip abroad since Russian tanks rolled into its neighbor in February
  • Putin is seeking to bolster ties with Tehran, a fellow target of severe US sanctions and a potential military and trade partner

TEHRAN: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran starting Tuesday is intended to deepen ties with regional heavyweights as part of Moscow’s challenge to the United States and Europe amid its grinding campaign in Ukraine.

In only his second trip abroad since Russian tanks rolled into its neighbor in February, Putin is scheduled to hold talks with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the pressing issues facing the region, including the conflict in Syria and a UN-backed proposal to resume exports of Ukrainian grain to ease the global food crisis.

As the West heaps sanctions on Russia and the costly campaign drags on, Putin is seeking to bolster ties with Tehran, a fellow target of severe US sanctions and a potential military and trade partner. In recent weeks, Russian officials visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice to review Tehran’s weapons-capable drones for possible use in Ukraine, the White House has alleged.

But perhaps most crucially, Tehran offers Putin a chance for a high-stakes meeting with Erdogan, who has sought to help broker talks on a peaceful settlement of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as well as help negotiations to unblock Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

Turkey, a NATO member, has found itself opposite Russia in bloody conflicts in Azerbaijan, Libya and Syria. But Turkey hasn’t imposed sanctions on the Kremlin, making it a sorely needed partner for Moscow. Grappling with runaway inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency, Turkey also relies on the Russian market.

The gathering has symbolic meaning for Putin’s domestic audience as well, showing off Russia’s international clout even as it grows increasingly isolated and plunges deeper into confrontation with the West.

Backed into a corner by the West and its regional rivals, the Iranian government is ramping up uranium enrichment, cracking down on dissent and grabbing headlines with optimistic, hard-line stances intended to keep the Iranian currency, the rial, from crashing.

Without sanctions relief in sight, Iran’s tactical partnership with Russia has become one of survival, even as Moscow appears to be undercutting Tehran in the black market oil trade.

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

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

AP

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