Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Iran Tuesday for his first major summit outside of Russia since invading Ukraine. Photo by Sergei Savostyanov/EPA-EFE
July 19 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Turkey on Tuesday for his first major summit outside the country since invading Ukraine.
Putin traveled to Iran to meet with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran as well as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
During the visit Tuesday, Iran’s national oil company signed a $40 billion agreement with Russian gas company Gazprom including the development of Iranian gas fields and building new gas export pipelines.
“I am very pleased to be on the hospitable Iranian soil … We can boast about record figures in terms of trade growth,” Putin said while meeting with Raisi. “We are strengthening our cooperation on international security issues, making a significant contribution to the settlement of the Syrian conflict.”
Raisi hailed a “significant” commitment to security cooperation between Russia and Iran, noting that the two nations had “good experience” fighting terrorism.
U.S. intelligence shared earlier this month indicated the Iranian government is “preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred” drones, including weapons-capable drones amid its ongoing war with Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Khamenei said the mutual cooperation between Russia and Iran is “deeply beneficial” while standing by Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.
“War is a harsh and difficult issue and Iran is not at all pleased that ordinary people suffer from it, but in the case of Ukraine if you had not taken initiative, the other side would have caused the war with its own initiative,” Khamenei told Putin.
He also described NATO as a “dangerous entity” and said that its expansion must be stopped.
“If the road is open to NATO it knows no boundaries and if it was not stopped in Ukraine they would start the same war some time later under the pretext of Crimea,” Khamenei said.
Putin also suggested that the United States’ support for Ukraine joining NATO forced his hand in waging war on Ukraine.
“No one is in favor of war, and the loss of ordinary people’s lives is a great tragedy but the behavior of the West made us have no choice but to react,” he said. “Some European countries said ‘We were against Ukraine’s membership in NATO, but we agreed under American pressure,’ which shows their lack of independence.”
The summit also marked the first time Putin met with the leader of a NATO country, as Turkey has worked to mediate negotiations between Russia and Ukraine to allow the release of more than 20 million tons of grain that have been blockaded in Ukraine’s Black Sea.
Erdogan opened the meeting by asserting his right to launch an invasion of Syria to combat Syrian Kurdish fighters belonging to the YPG, which Turkey designates as a terrorist organization.
He said an 18-mile barrier was necessary to quell hotbeds of terrorism in northern Syria, adding that it was “not possible to expect Turkey to sit idle and aloof from this problem.”
Khamenei warned Erdogan ahead of the summit that “a military attack in the north of Syria would be to the detriment of Turkey and the benefit of terrorists.”
“This move would definitely harm Syria, Turkey and the region and it will not create the expected potential actions by Syrians,” Khamenei said, adding that the issue should be resolved through negotiations.