Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin and Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meet with Iran‘s President Ebrahim Raisi on Tuesday. At the summit in the Iranian capital, Tehran, official talks are planned to improve the situation in civil war-torn Syria. According to the Kremlin, however, it is about a whole range of international policy issues, including the war in Ukraine. The meeting comes shortly after a multi-day trip by US President Joe Biden to the region. Biden returned from Saudi Arabia — Iran’s major regional rival — just over the weekend.
The three states have negotiated Syria’s future in the past. Russia and Iran support the Syrian government, while Turkey is allied with the opposition. According to dpa information, Syria’s foreign minister is also expected to meet his Iranian counterpart in Tehran on Wednesday.
Is Russia Withdrawing From Syria?
After the start of the Ukraine war, experts consider a shift in power among the actors in Syria to be possible. According to this, Iran and Turkey could try to fill a power vacuum left by Moscow. Ankara has been announcing a new offensive against the Kurdish forces in northern Syria for weeks. Russia and Iran recently warned Turkey about military action.
It is Putin’s second officially known trip abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February. NATO member Turkey has close ties to both Moscow and Kyiv and most recently acted as a mediator between the two countries in the dispute over grain exports blocked in Ukraine.
Combat drones officially not an issue
A statement by a high-ranking US government official last week caused a stir. There are indications that Moscow wants to acquire Iranian combat drones for the war against Ukraine. A Russian delegation has apparently already visited an Iranian airport for a demonstration of attackable drones. Iran immediately denied this and firmly assured Ukraine that the American claims were “baseless”. The Kremlin also said recently that Putin and Raisi would not talk about possible drone deliveries on Tuesday.
Officially, Iran is neutral with regard to Russia’s war against Ukraine, which began at the end of February. But the sympathies of the Iranian leadership for Russia are well known. Iran’s relations with the largest country in the world in terms of area have become ever closer in recent years – especially since 2018, when the USA, under its then President Donald Trump, withdrew from the Vienna nuclear agreement. Due to US sanctions, Iran was also able to obtain military equipment almost exclusively from Russia.