RECEP Tayyip Erdogan
RECEP Tayyip Erdogan

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to discuss Syria during a visit to Tehran next Tuesday, the Kremlin said.

It will be Putin’s second foreign trip since the start of Moscow’s armed intervention in Ukraine on Feb 24, following a trip to Central Asia at the end of June.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said three leaders — from the three guarantor states of the Astana process, designed to find a peace settlement in Syria — would hold a trilateral meeting.

VLADIMIR Putin
VLADIMIR Putin

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

The Kremlin had said on Monday that Putin and Erdogan, who has been mediating between Moscow and Kyiv since Russia sent its armed forces into Ukraine on Feb 24, would hold in-person talks soon after a phone conversation in which they discussed efforts to facilitate grain exports from Ukraine.

Peskov made no mention on Tuesday of any bilateral meeting between Putin and Raisi in Tehran.

Meanwhile, Turkiye said it will host Russian and Ukrainian delegations together with UN diplomats on Wednesday to discuss the resumption of stalled grain deliveries across the Black Sea.

The four-way meeting with Turkish officials comes as food prices soar around the world due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat and other grain.

But its shipments have blocked by Russian warships and mines that Kyiv has laid across the Black Sea.

EBRAHIM Raisi
EBRAHIM Raisi

Nato member Turkiye has been spearheading efforts to resume the grain deliveries.

Turkish officials say they have 20 merchant ships waiting in the Black Sea that could be loaded quickly with Ukrainian grain.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar announced the meeting in a statement on Tuesday, but did not specify who will represent each side.

“Military delegations from the Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian defe­nce ministries, and a delegation of the United Nations, will hold talks tomorrow in Istanbul on the safe shipment to international markets of grain wai­ting in Ukrainian ports,” Akar said.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman confirmed the meeting but also insisted that Moscow had a list of demands.

“Another round of expert consultations is planned for July 13 in Istanbul,” ministry spokesman Pyotr Ilyichev was quoted as saying by Russia’s Interfax news agency.

“Our understandable conditions include the possibility to control and search the ship to avoid the contraband of weapons, and Kyiv’s commitment not to stage provocations,” Ilyichev said.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2022

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