Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran on Tuesday in his second trip abroad since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, seeking to deepen bilateral ties in the midst of unprecedented global isolation and crippling sanctions on both parties.
The Russian premier met with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, as well as his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The main subject of discussion is officially the conflict in Syria, but the talks will also take in bilateral trade and mitigating the impact of Putin's war in Ukraine.
According to AP, Iranian authorities “rolled out a long red carpet for Putin at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, where Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji greeted him warmly before he was whisked into his presidential convoy to the city”.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian wrote on Twitter that the visit showed “Iran is (the) center of dynamic diplomacy. The meetings… are an opportunity to consolidate relations, develop economic cooperation… and guarantee food security.”
The visit comes days after US President visited Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic’s two biggest regional rivals, and at a time when Iran is suffering like other nations from food price hikes and basic goods shortages in part as a consequence of the Ukraine invasion.
Raisi and Putin were also expected to discuss future trade deals that could help mitigate sanctions. Fadahossein Maleki, a member of Iran’s National Security Committee, described Russia on Monday as Iran’s “most strategic partner” – despite a string of recent humiliations and even as Moscow appears to be undercutting Tehran in the black market oil trade.
For Putin there may also be a military motive. White House officials allege that in recent weeks Russian officials visited an airfield in central Tehran at least twice to review weapons-capable drones for possible use in Ukraine.
For his part, President Erdogan is trying to position Ankara as a potential broker of peace between Russia and Ukraine, and in the more immediate future, a UN-backed agreement to resume Ukrainian grain exports.
Erdogan met with Khamenei himself on Tuesday, and was issued by the latter with a direct warning not to engage militarily in Syria any further. “Any sort of military attack in northern Syria will definitely harm Turkey, Syria and the entire region, and will benefit terrorists," Khamenei said, stressing the need to “bring the issue to an end through talks.”
Separately Iran and Turkey also signed preliminary agreements on investment, diplomacy, media and business, among other fields, and pledged to triple bilateral trade to $30bn, despite the sanctions still in place on Iran.