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On Cordial Ties & Discord!

After signing a strategic partnership accord with China in March 2021, Iran has hinted that it would sign a similar pact with Russia in March 2022. The Iranian Foreign Ministry recently confirmed the news, saying in a statement that Strategic Partnership with China and Russia would help the West Asian Nation tackle the West, as far as its Nuclear Programme is concerned. In recent times, the three countries have maintained cordial ties.

In Tehran, senior spokesperson of the Iranian Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh has said: “The initial arrangements of this document, entitled the ‘Global Agreement for Cooperation between Iran and Russia’, have been concluded.” He told the press: “We are in the process of finalising diverse clauses of the document and we will send it to Moscow.” According to Khatibzadeh, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the issue with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian on the sidelines of the recently held Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) with his Iranian counterpart Amirabdollahian

The Iranian official has claimed that it has become necessary for Tehran to improve ties with Russia and to concentrate on strategic partnerships because of the changing global geopolitical scenario. Meanwhile, Khatibzadeh has admitted that Iran and China concluded a 25-year Strategic and Commercial Cooperation Agreement after several years of talks. The Agreement is beneficial for Tehran, as Iran became a member of the SCO, led by Russia and China. The Foreign Ministry official has expressed hope that the agreement with Russia will be signed soon.

At the same time, Khatibzadeh urged the European countries to guarantee the existing Nuclear Deal that would be revisited by all the parties during a planned resumption of talks in Vienna. He has strongly criticised Germany for creating troubles for Iran, stating: “The European capitals, including Berlin, have been passive spectators.” The spokesperson has further stressed: “We, therefore, expect all parties, when they arrive in Vienna, to know that they have no choice, but to adhere to their obligations under the nuclear deal.

It may be noted that China and Russia have always backed the Iranian Nuclear Programme, putting the West under tremendous diplomatic pressure by cooperating with Tehran. Moscow and Tehran consider one another as reliable partners at the global stage. In Syria, they back the Administration of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad to take on the Islamic State and US-led international forces. Without their presence in Damascus, Syria would have been a second Iraq, where Washington DC has installed a pro-US Government.

It may be noted that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in Sochi in the last week of September 2021. The Every Morning Asia online portal has reported that the meeting was more about courtesy than about a real movement of the geopolitics of West Asia and the Caucasus. If in the past the meetings between the two Euro-Asian political actors exceeded six hours of debate on the hottest points on the common political agenda, the recent contact lasted no more than three hours (with no statements to the Media), indicating that the meeting was more symbolic rather than a changer.

President Erdoğan (L) meets President Putin in Sochi

Behind this stance in the bilateral dialogue is a possible political stalemate between Moscow and Ankara on several levels, with the two being found on opposite sides in many global crises. In Syria, Russia is the biggest military and political backer of the al-Assad Regime, while Turkey supports the Idlib-based rebel groups, the last stronghold of the Opposition Forces against the Syrian Regime. In the past, the situation in Idlib deteriorated rapidly following violent clashes between al-Assad’s Security Forces and Ankara-backed rebel groups. Although Russia and Turkey have brokered a ceasefire, the rebel groups have reported several Russian air raids over the area a couple of weeks ago.

In Libya, Turkey has troops on the ground in support of the Government of the National Accord in Tripoli, while Russia has been backing General Khalifa Haftar. While both Turkey and Russia support the UN-led process in Libya, Ankara has not yet withdrawn its troops on the ground. Meanwhile, Russia maintains a presence on the Libyan territory through the Wagner Group, a Russian Paramilitary Force.

Beyond the crises in West Asia, there are moments of considerable tension between Turkey and Russia in the Caucasus. The 2020 conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh led to a Turkish presence in the Caucasus (on the Azerbaijani side), a region considered by the Kremlin in Moscow’s backyard and not large enough for both the regional players.

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