Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran for the first trip outside the former Soviet Union since the invasion of Ukraine

Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran and was scheduled to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on Tuesday, according to Iranian state news agency IRNA.

“I am very pleased to be on the hospitable Iranian soil … We can boast of record figures for the growth of trade,” Putin said at a bilateral meeting with Raisi.

“We are strengthening our cooperation on international security issues, making a significant contribution to the settlement of the Syrian conflict.”

Raisi also welcomed the “significant” commitment of the two countries to security cooperation.

“The two countries have good experience in fighting terrorism, which I think has brought security to the region,” he said.

Russia’s relationship with Iran has alarmed Western officials as Russia prepares to step up ground offensives in eastern Ukraine following its military takeover of the Luhansk region.

Recently declassified US intelligence indicates that Iran is expected to supply to Russia with “hundreds” of drones, including combat-ready ones, for use in the war in Ukraine, and Iran is preparing to begin training Russian forces on how to fly them as early as late July, according to White House officials.

“Russia’s appeal to Iran for help speaks volumes to the extent to which both countries are increasingly marginalized by the international community due to their actions in different parts of the world,” John Kirby, National Security Council strategic communications coordinator, told CNN. last week.

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On Putin’s trip to Iran, he will also come face to face with Erdogan – the leader of NATO member Turkey – and follow Erdogan. repeated his threat to block the ascent Sweden and Finland into the alliance after conditionally agreeing to the approval of their application in June.

“I would like to remind you again that we will freeze the process if they do not take the necessary steps to fulfill our conditions,” Erdogan said on Monday after a cabinet meeting. He retracted his opposition to enlargement at last month’s NATO summit in a major diplomatic breakthrough that dealt a blow to Putin.

Putin and Erdogan intend to discuss the issue of grain exports from Ukrainian ports, the Kremlin said before the trip, according to state news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS. The visit comes amid Ukrainian claims that more than 20 million tons of grain are stuck in Ukraine due to a Russian blockade of various Black Sea ports.

“The work is going very actively. You know that on July 13, the first quadrilateral meeting on grain was held in Istanbul with the participation of representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN. We are ready to continue working on this track. “This work will be continued,” Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said at a briefing, quoted by RIA.

Khamenei warns Erdogan against military campaign in Syria

Ahead of the summit, Khamenei warned Erdogan against launching a military operation in northern Syria, state news agency IRNA also reported.

“A military attack in northern Syria will harm Turkey and benefit the terrorists,” Khamenei reportedly told Erdogan in Tehran.

His warning comes amid Erdogan’s threats to launch a new military offensive to push back Syrian Kurdish fighters belonging to the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.

“This move will definitely harm Syria, Turkey and the region and will not trigger the expected political action from the Syrians,” Khamenei warned.

“The Syrian issue should be resolved through negotiations, and Iran, Turkey, Syria and Russia will hold discussions on this issue,” he added.

CNN’s Mostafa Salem, Abdul Nasir, Ramin Mostahim and Adam Pourahmadi contributed to this report.