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Putin, Raisi Summit Maintains Social Distance, Marks a 'Turning Point' in Relations

Putin, Raisi Summit Maintains Social Distance, Marks a 'Turning Point' in Relations

Thursday, 20 January, 2022 - 08:45
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi at the Kremlin (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin received at the Kremlin Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi to discuss bilateral relations, regional developments, and their strategic cooperation.

Ahead of the visit, Russian and Iranian media outlets described the visit as a turning point to boost strategic cooperation.

However, despite the media hype, the reception at the Kremlin was not up to expectations, where the protocol office arranged the meeting at a long table, unlike previous ceremonies during which Putin usually receives heads of state.

Some observers attributed the decision to maintain COVID-19 precautions, and Putin's spokesman later told the media that the seating arrangement was due to "measures of sanitary necessity."

Still, the meeting was not followed by a joint press conference, as is customary when receiving presidents, which Kremlin sources said was to respect Putin's desire to maintain distance and not participate in open events.

Nevertheless, the two presidents were keen to highlight their coordination in various fields, especially Syria.

In his opening speech, the Russian President said that Tehran and Moscow cooperate in the international arena.

"We can say that our efforts largely helped the Syrian government overcome the threats linked with international terrorism. Now both you and we are concerned about the situation that is taking shape in Afghanistan."

Putin expressed a desire to discuss these issues with Raisi and hear his position on these problems.

He thanked his Iranian counterpart for finding the time to come to Russia in these difficult pandemic times, noting that both leaders have been in constant contact since your inauguration, "but of course, videoconferences and telephone conversations cannot replace personal meetings."

Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) are developing relations temporarily, under a temporary agreement, said Putin, adding: "We are doing much to create a long-term foundation for cooperation and a free trade area between Iran and our union."

Putin asked Raisi to convey his best regards to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Raisi will address the State Duma on Thursday, which is rarely included on the agenda of visiting presidents, reflecting the importance of this trip.

He also stressed the importance of the cooperation between Iran and Russia in Syria, describing it as a "very good experience."

"We were fighting terrorism in the region, in the Syrian Arab Republic through a concerted effort. We can use this positive experience in many other areas."

The Iranian delegation delivered a document on bilateral strategic cooperation, which may determine "our future relations for the next 20 years," according to Raisi.

"We believe this document will certainly determine the long-term prospects for strategic cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation."

Contrary to the previous analysis, Russian sources said that Moscow and Tehran would not sign the document during the current visit.

Observers believe that Moscow may be waiting for the outcome of the nuclear negotiations before taking a similar step.

Raisi asserted that Iran "will never stop progress and national development because of sanctions or threats."

The President asserted that his country is trying to lift these sanctions, noting that officials are working on different mechanisms, and the ultimate goal is to remove restrictions with their help.

Raisi expressed Iran's aspiration to develop its relations with Russia in the economy, politics, culture, science, technology, the defense and military areas, security, and aviation and space.

"We can develop a new level of cooperation in all these areas."

He also noted that both sides are working to increase the level of their cooperation in trade and the economy and to raise investment manifold.

Raisi thanked Putin for supporting Iran in becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

"I would like to say that in the current, exceptional conditions when unilateral actions by the West, including the US, are being confronted, we can create synergy in our cooperation."

Raisi focused on the "long-term strategic path" in relations with Moscow, reflecting the priority of this issue to his team.

Tehran also wants to reassure Moscow that reaching a possible agreement on the nuclear deal does not mean Iran will turn its back on its Russian allies.

Meanwhile, Moscow announced its readiness to develop cooperation in various fields, namely the military.

Ahead of the visit, Western media discussed the prospects of Russian-Iranian military-technical cooperation. They reported that the two parties might conclude a $10 billion contract to purchase Russian military equipment.

Military observers believe that it is important for Tehran to purchase modern Russian fighters, but the issue lies in Iran's desire to pay for them through a barter system or obtain a soft Russian loan, according to experts, which they believe is possible.

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