Putin holds talks with Iranian and Turkish leaders
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held talks with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi before Russian dictator Vladimir Putin arrived for trilateral talks.
Putin has since arrived in Tehran on his second international trip since his invasion of Ukraine in February.
Syria, the chances of reviving the Iran nuclear agreement, the war in Ukraine, food security and the Ukrainian grain blockade are expected to be on the agenda.
Erdogan is due to ask Putin to lift his naval blockade preventing Ukrainian crops from leaving its Black Sea ports. The European Union says it is not seeking to sanction Russian food, shipping or fertilisers. Putin, however, has so far ignored Ankara’s requests to discuss the subject.
Under the 1936 Montreux Convention for naval traffic entering the Black Sea, Turkey is asking Russia to allow Ukrainian grain ships to leave Odesa on designated routes with checks to ensure they are not carrying arms.
Ukraine is the world’s biggest wheat supplier and the war has sent grain rocketing across the globe. Ships have been stranded and around 22 million tonnes of grain are trapped at Ukraine’s ports.
A coordination centre could be opened in Istanbul to coordinate shipments.
Turkey might be taking advantage of the Ukraine war and is threatening to attack northern Syria to force Syrian Kurdish militants away from the Turkish border. Turkey wants to create a buffer zone along the border to encourage the voluntary return of its huge population of Syrian refugees.
But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned Erdogan against any offensive. “Any sort of military attack in northern Syria will definitely harm Turkey, Syria and the entire region, and will benefit terrorists, bring the issue to an end through talks,” he said.
Iran has also long been trying to seal a cooperation agreement with Turkey and a document was due to be signed in November 2021.
The neighbours are major trade partners but United States sanctions on Iran and Covid have reduced commercial links.
Bilateral trade peaked at US$21 billion in 2012 and fell to US$1 billion in 2020. The volume recovered to US$5.5 billion by late 2021 and Tehran wants to significantly boost it, despite Washington’s sanctions.
Turkey has been working to foster closer ties with Israel and now-caretaker Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid visited in June.
Turkey in June said it foiled a purported Iranian plot to kill Israeli citizens in Istanbul. Iran denied the allegations.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Vladimir Putin. Picture credit: YouTube