Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Iran’s top leaders as Moscow voices increasing criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump’s move away from the nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic.
Putin travels to Tehran on Wednesday for talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that will focus on the nuclear issue and their cooperation in Syria, as well as economic ties, the Kremlin said in an emailed statement. He’ll also take part in a three-way summit between Russia, Iran and neighboring Azerbaijan.
“Iran wants Russia’s position to be more clear and supportive” over the nuclear pact, which is endangered by the U.S. stance, said Alexei Malashenko, a senior analyst at the Berlin-based Dialogue of Civilizations research group. They’re also likely to discuss Russia and Iran’s postwar balance of responsibilities in Syria, he said.
Trump last month disavowed the 2015 accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program that was negotiated between Tehran and the U.S., Russia, France, Germany, the U.K. and China. He accused Iran of violating the agreement multiple times, though he stopped short of abandoning the pact completely. All of the other participants, as well as inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, say Iran is complying with the deal.
Russia has rejected Trump’s demand to renegotiate the deal. On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “unpredictable” U.S. behavior was an issue of grave concern, citing the refusal to uphold the Iranian agreement and threats to use force to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Russia and Iran are allies in Syria and the main backers of President Bashar al-Assad, deploying military forces to help his regime turn the tide against opponents backed by the U.S. and regional powers in a civil war that’s raged since 2011.
Russia and Iran also plan to discuss cooperation in the energy sphere. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak is due to meet with Iranian Finance Minister Masoud Karbasian in Tehran, followed by talks with Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.
Putin, Rouhani and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev are also due to discuss plans for establishing a railway line between Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia that could be used to move freight from Asia to Europe. The project would aim to grab a share of cargo now being shipped through the Suez Canal.
Aliyev opened a similar rail project on Monday that links the Azeri capital, Baku, to Turkey via Georgia, offering a transport corridor to move goods between China and Europe through central Asia, in competition with existing routes through Russia and Iran.