Russian leader Vladimir Putin yesterday praised his talks with the presidents of Iran and Turkiye, speaking after a three-way summit on the Syrian conflict overshadowed by Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.
Putin said the Syria summit in Tehran had been “truly useful and rather substantial”, describing the atmosphere as “business-like and constructive”.
He said the three leaders adopted a joint declaration, pledging to strengthen co-operation in the interests of the “normalisation” of the situation in Syria.
The Kremlin chief also praised his bilateral meetings with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He said he and Erdogan discussed the export of Ukrainian and Russian grain as well as food security, but he provided no further details.
At the start of talks earlier in the day Putin praised the Turkish leader for mediating talks on the export of grain from Ukraine, saying there had been some progress.
Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine has hampered shipments from one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat and other grain, sparking fears of global food shortages. Putin travelled abroad for only the second time since ordering the offensive in Ukraine on February 24.
Earlier, Putin held talks with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran, the Kremlin leader’s first trip outside the former Soviet Union since Moscow’s Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.
Putin’s trip, which comes just days after US President Joe Biden visited Israel and Saudi Arabia, sends a strong message to the West about Moscow’s plans to forge closer strategic ties with Iran, China and India in the face of Western sanctions.
Footage of Putin’s meeting with Khamenei showed the Russian leader and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi sat together a few metres from the supreme leader, in a spartan white room with an Iranian flag and a portrait of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
Khamenei called for long-term co-operation between Iran and Russia, telling Putin that the two countries needed to stay vigilant against “Western deception”, Iran’s state TV reported.
He said Putin had ensured Russia “maintained its independence” from the United States and expressed support for countries to start using their own national currencies when trading goods. “The US dollar should be gradually taken off global trade, and this can be done gradually,” Khamenei said.
Despite the suffering endured by ordinary people in war, he said Moscow had little alternative in Ukraine. “If you had not taken the initiative, the other side (West) would have caused a war on its own initiative,” he told Putin. For Iran, also chafing under Western economic sanctions and at loggerheads with the United States over Tehran’s nuclear programme and a range of other issues, Putin’s visit is timely.
Its clerical leaders are keen to strengthen strategic relations with Russia in the face of an emerging US-backed Gulf bloc which includes Israel, that could shift the Middle East balance of power further away from Iran.
“Both our countries have good experience in countering terrorism and this has provided much security to our region,” Raisi said after talks with Putin. “I hope your visit to Iran will increase co-operation between our two independent countries.”
Emboldened by high oil prices since the Ukraine war, Iran is betting that with Russia’s support it could pressure Washington to offer concessions for the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal.
However, Russia’s increased tilt towards Beijing in recent months has significantly reduced Iran’s crude exports to China — a key source of income for Tehran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pose for a picture before a meeting of leaders from the three guarantor states of the Astana process, designed to find a peace settlement to the Syria crisis, in Tehran, yesterday.