Amid Russia-Ukraine war, Putin to visit Iran for Syria talks

Russia, Turkey and Iran have been holding talks as part of the so-called ‘Astana peace process’ to end the war in Syria.

As Russia’s war on Ukraine grinds on, President Vladimir Putin will travel to Iran next week for a Syria summit with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Kremlin has announced.

“The president’s visit to Tehran is being planned for July 19,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday. He added the trio would meet for peace talks on Syria.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have in recent years been holding talks as part of the so-called “Astana peace process” to end more than 11 years of conflict in the Middle Eastern country.

Russia and Iran are the key military and political backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has provided military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups still fighting against al-Assad’s forces in the northwest.

The foreign trip marks the Kremlin chief’s second since he sent troops into Ukraine in late February; he visited Tajikistan in late June.

Russia and Iran hold close ties, while Turkey has attempted to act as a mediator during the Ukraine conflict.

Tuesday’s announcement comes after the White House said on Monday that it believed Moscow was turning to Iran to provide it with “hundreds” of drones, including those capable of carrying weapons, for use in Ukraine.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said it was unclear whether Iran had already provided any of the drones to Russia, but said Washington has “information” that indicates Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use them as soon as this month.

“Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline,” Sullivan told reporters, referring to drones by the acronym for unmanned aerial vehicles.

However, some observers disputed the White House’s suggestion.

Talks on grain exports continue

The Kremlin said Putin will also hold separate talks with Erdogan in Tehran.

Meanwhile, a fresh round of talks between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations over grain exports from Ukraine will take place on Wednesday in Istanbul, Interfax news agency reported, citing the Russian foreign ministry.

The West aims to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which it says are shut by a Russian blockade, halting exports from one of the world’s main sources of grain and threatening to exacerbate global hunger.

Erdogan, who has offered to mediate on the grain issue, discussed the matter with Putin by telephone on Tuesday, the Kremlin said.

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