Miral de Bruijne
Miral de Bruijne
In the Iranian capital Tehran, a meeting is scheduled for tomorrow between Russian President Putin, his Turkish counterpart Erdogan and the host, Iranian President Raisi. It is certain that they will talk about the situation in Syria, where a civil war continues, in which all three play a role. But behind closed doors, many more topics are likely to be discussed. The leaders enter the meeting with each their agenda.
It is Putin’s first foreign trip outside the borders of the former Soviet Union since the start of the war in Ukraine. The trip follows shortly after President Biden’s visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia last week, with Iran’s nuclear program prominent on the agenda.
“Putin’s consultations with Iran and Turkey appear to be sending a message to the West,” said Russia correspondent Iris de Graaf. Putin wants to show that he does not need the West and seeks cooperation with other allies.
In recent years, Putin has increasingly focused on relations with China, India and the Middle East. With visits like this, he wants to strengthen his ties to non-Western countries. “It’s even more important to him now that the Western world has written off Russia,” De Graaf said.
The most important topic of discussion in Tehran is the civil war in Syria. As early as 2017, these three countries spoke with representatives of the Syrian government and rebel groups in Astana (Kazakhstan). De Graaf: “That consultation is an achievement that Putin is proud of.”
Iran is also becoming an increasingly important ally of Putin, not only strategically but also economically. Putin, for example, is looking for new trade routes to circumvent Western sanctions. Putin would also like to discuss this with his colleague Raisi. “This visit contributes to the image Putin wants to present: that he is an influential player on the world stage. That is why he sits down with leaders who do not write him off, but respect him.”
It is not surprising that these negotiations are taking place in Iran. It is one of the countries that Russia still supports, says historian and Iran expert Peyman Jafari. “And the war in Syria has brought Russia and Iran closer together.”
After Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, the motto was: neither the West nor the East, but the Islamic Republic, says Jafari. “Yet one can see the relationship between Iran and countries like Russia and China getting closer over the past decade. In 2018, President Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal and then imposed heavy sanctions on Iran. To survive, the country continues to pull. more to the east. “
Roughly speaking, Jafari mentions two interests that will play a role for Iran at Tuesday’s summit. On the one hand, it is about prestige: “Raisi wants a photo opportunity with Putin and Erdogan. He wants to show Iranians and world leaders that his country is not isolated.”
Second, Iran is about intensifying political and economic cooperation to withstand the pressure of US sanctions. “Iran and Russia have signed a 20-year cooperation agreement and greatly increased their trade between them. Recently, Iran completed their section of the north-south international transport corridor, the trade route that connects Russia with India via Iran.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would also like to talk about the economy, more specifically about the much-desired corridor for Ukrainian grain. “It should be the solution to the global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” explains Turkey correspondent Mitra Nazar. “Russia must provide guarantees to allow grain ships from Ukraine to pass through. Turkey is important because that country regulates the passage to and from the Black Sea and tries to mediate between Kiev and Moscow.”
Syria is also an important item on Erdogan’s agenda. “He has been shouting for weeks that the Turkish army is preparing a new military offensive in northern Syria, where Turkey wants to push Kurdish militias further back,” said Nazar. For such an invasion of Syria, Turkey needs the green light from the Russians, who provide military support to President Assad’s regime.
NATO member Turkey has a special position on the world stage. The country maintains relations with the West and the East both when it comes to the war in Ukraine and the struggle in Syria. “Syria is a geopolitical chessboard,” Nazar says. “On the one hand, Turkey and Russia face each other there and support other groups in the country, on the other hand, they also make patrols together. But the fact is that in the end, Turkey can not do anything there without Russia allowing it. . “
Before leaving for Tehran, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was already looking for agreements between Russia and Iran: Both countries must adhere to a wash list of Western sanctions. According to Peskov, this is the price they pay for their sovereignty. An Iranian official also did not hide Iranian interests from the news agency Reuters. “We need a strong ally, and Russia is a superpower.”