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Putin Meets Raisi, Erdogan in Iran for Talks Overshadowed by War

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·3 min read
Putin Meets Raisi, Erdogan in Iran for Talks Overshadowed by War
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(Bloomberg) --

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The leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Tehran to discuss the conflict in Syria but with the turmoil caused by President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine far more in focus.

Putin called the talks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan “useful and quite substantive,” but the leaders announced few agreements on Syria beyond a pledge to meet again in Russia before the end of the year. The trip was the Russian president’s first outside the former Soviet Union since he ordered the Feb. 24 invasion.

The leaders also held separate one-on-one meetings Tuesday. Putin thanked Erdogan for his efforts to broker a deal to unblock shipments of grain from the Black Sea disrupted by the war but said “not all the issues have been resolved.” Turkey has been negotiating with Russia and Ukraine on a possible deal to release exports of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to help ease soaring global prices and a deepening hunger crisis in many poorer countries.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday he was hopeful Russia and Ukraine could clinch a grain deal this week, adding that “the lives of tens of thousands of people depend on this agreement.”

Ukraine and its US and European allies have accused Russia of using food supplies as a weapon to try to force an easing of sanctions pressure on its economy, something the Kremlin denies. Ukraine has also accused Russia of stealing grain from occupied regions and exporting it.

In the talks Tuesday, Erdogan was also expected to raise a proposal that would see Russia and Turkey relying on their own currencies to pay for trade, including lucrative energy supplies, according to Turkish officials familiar with the matter. The presidents didn’t mention any agreement in their public comments after the talks, however.

The Kremlin has accelerated efforts to move away from the dollar after the US and its allies imposed unprecedented sanctions to punish Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.

Putin said he discussed increased use of national currencies in trade with Iran’s leader, though no deals were announced.

The National Iranian Oil Company and Russia’s Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation on projects worth around $40 billion, Iran’s state-run Shana news agency reported Tuesday. The agreement covers development of six oil and two gas fields, construction of gas export pipelines, gas and product swaps and the completion of the Iran LNG export terminal.

Gazprom made no mention of the deal’s value and said only that the two sides had “agreed to analyze cooperation options.” Previous Iranian attempts to enter the liquefied natural gas market, including with Gazprom’s participation, have been thwarted by US sanctions.

On Syria, differences between the three leaders were visible even in their public statements.

Erdogan reiterated his pledge to remove YPG from north of Syria, an area used by the Kurdish militant group as a launchpad for attacks against Turkey. The government in Ankara sees YPG and affiliates as an extension of the PKK, a separatist militant group listed as a terrorist organization by the US and European Union. Turkey, which has staged cross-border operations to push YPG and Islamic State away from its border with Syria, expects solidarity from partners in the Astana Format as it keeps fighting those militia, Erdogan said after Tuesday’s summit.

“As the guarantors of Astana [Format], our expectation from Russia and Iran is for them to support Turkey in this fight,” he said.

Erdogan met Tuesday with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who warned that a renewed Turkish military campaign in northern Syria would be “harmful” to the region.

Turkey has deployed troops across its border with northern Syria to target the US-backed Kurdish forces it regards as terrorists, while Russia and Iran have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime against anti-government rebels. Putin in March urged his security officials to send thousands of Middle East fighters to help Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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