Putin to meet Ayatollah Khamenei during Iran visit

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei during a visit to Tehran on Monday, the Kremlin said, as Moscow goes on a diplomatic push over the Syria conflict.

Talks with Iran’s leadership will focus on “issues in bilateral relations, including atomic energy, oil and gas and military-technical cooperation”, Putin’s top foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said Friday, with the Russian president also set to meet his counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

After the visit to Tehran — Putin’s first there since 2007 — the Russian leader will host Jordanian King Abdullah II on Tuesday and French leader Francois Hollande on Thursday in Russia.

Russia and Iran are both militarily backing Syrian government, with Moscow flying a bombing campaign and Iran believed to command thousands of troops on the ground.

Putin has stepped up his push for a broader coalition of countries to fight sop called Islamic State terrorists in Syria after confirming this week the bombing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt and following last week’s bloody attacks in Paris.

The Kremlin strongman is also looking to strengthen strategic ties with Iran after the landmark nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers in July.

French leader Hollande — whose country is part of a separate US-led coalition bombing ISIS — has also called for international powers to join forces to battle the terrorists in the wake of the Paris attacks.

But divisions remain over what if any role President Bashar al-Assad would play in the fight against ISIS, with Moscow and Tehran seeing Syrian army as central to defeating ISIS while the US and its Arab allies have been funneling money and arms to his opponents over the years.

“Ahead of the visit to Moscow the French president will visit Washington. We see this as a continuation of attempts to form the widest possible anti-terror coalition,” Ushakov told journalists. 


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