Vladimir Putin in Tehran for Iran-Turkey-Russia summit on Syria

Vladimir Putin in Tehran for Iran-Turkey-Russia summit on Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for discussions with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts on the conflict in Syria, but also on the war in Ukraine.

Iranian state television showed live images of the arrival of the Russian head of state, on the occasion of his second trip abroad since the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine on February 24.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, arrived Monday evening and had bilateral talks with Iranian leaders who reiterated Tehran’s opposition to a Turkish offensive in northern Syria.

The tripartite summit comes days after US President Joe Biden’s tour of the Middle East, where he visited Israel, Iran’s number one enemy, and Saudi Arabia, its powerful regional rival.

It will be essentially dominated by Syria where Russia, Turkey and Iran represent major players in the war that has ravaged the country since 2011, Moscow and Tehran supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Ankara supporting rebels. The three countries launched the so-called Astana process in 2017, officially aimed at bringing peace to Syria.

President Erdogan was received Tuesday morning by his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, before a meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to state television.

Mr. Khamenei reiterated his country’s opposition to a possible Turkish military operation in Syria, deeming it “prejudicial” for the region, according to an official statement.

“A military offensive (against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, editor’s note) will definitely be detrimental for Syria, Turkey and the region,” he said.

However, the Supreme Leader promised Mr Erdogan that Iran would “cooperate” with Turkey in its “fight against terrorism”, while stressing that “terrorists are not limited to a specific group”.

– A big problem” –

Turkey is seeking to create a 30 kilometer “safe zone” on the border with Syria and hopes to get the green light from Iran and Russia for a new armed intervention in the northwest of the country.

The Turkish army, present in areas of northern Syrian territory bordering Turkey, launched between 2016 and 2019 with the help of Syrian auxiliaries three major operations in Syria.

She wants to launch a new operation against two localities under the control of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia accused by Turkey of being affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – classified as terrorist by Ankara.

These groups “are indeed a big problem for” Iran and Turkey and “we must fight against these terrorist organizations in solidarity and alliance”, indicated for his part Mr. Erdogan during a press conference. in Tehran.

– Ukraine and nuclear –

The tripartite summit will be an opportunity for Mr. Erdogan to meet with Mr. Putin for the first time since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, a member of NATO, has tried to maintain contact with the two countries, offering to mediate on several occasions.

The two leaders will talk about mechanisms to allow exports through safe maritime corridors of grain from Ukraine, blocked in this country by the Russian military offensive at the risk of causing a world food crisis.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that a “final document” would be ready shortly to allow the export of grain from Ukraine.

The agreement, which is being negotiated between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations, aims to bring out through the Black Sea some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in Ukrainian silos due to the Russian offensive.

On the other hand, discussions between Russians and Iranians could focus on the Iranian nuclear issue, experts believe.

Russia is taking part in talks that began more than a year ago between Iran and the major powers to revive the 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, allowing the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities. These discussions have been stalled since March.

Thursday, during his trip to Israel, Joe Biden signed a security pact with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid committing the United States to never allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

And on Saturday, in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Biden told an audience of Arab leaders that his country “would not turn away” from the Middle East by leaving “a vacuum that could be filled by China, Russia or Iran”. Remarks condemned by Tehran, which accuses Washington of fueling tensions in the region.

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