Vladimir Putin reaches Tehran, hold talks with Iran, Turkey leaders
- Iran rolled out a long red carpet for Putin at Tehran's Mehrabad airport
- Turkey has found itself opposite Russia in bloody conflicts in Azerbaijan, Libya and Syria
- It has even sold lethal drones that Ukrainian forces used to attack Russian troop
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday arrived in Iran for a visit intended to deepen ties with regional leaders as part of Moscow's challenge to the United States and Europe amid its grinding campaign in Ukraine.
In his second trip abroad since Russian tanks rolled into its neighbour in February, the Russian president is meeting Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 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.
Iran 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.
But perhaps most crucially, the Tehran trip 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. It has even sold lethal drones that Ukrainian forces have used to attack Russian troops. 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.
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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. It comes just days after US President Joe Biden's visited Israel and Saudi Arabia — Tehran's primary rivals.
From Jerusalem and Jeddah, Biden urged Israel and Arab countries to push back on Russian, Chinese and Iranian influence that has expanded with the perception of America's retreat from the region.