Following the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran has shown understanding for Russia’s actions in Ukraine and called for long-term cooperation. Moscow hardly had an alternative in Ukraine, Khamenei said on Tuesday after the meeting in Tehran. “If they hadn’t taken the initiative, the other side (the West) would have started a war of their own accord.” Russia and Iran must remain vigilant against Western deceptions.

Putin also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. It was about an agreement to resume Ukrainian grain exports and the conflict in northern Syria.

The Russian head of state called for more unity in Syria policy and accused the West of interfering. The West is “on course to dismember the country,” Putin said at the televised meeting in Tehran on Tuesday. He demanded that Russia, Turkey and Iran, to whom Putin conceded a key role in shaping the future of Syria, must jointly oppose this.

“The situation in the areas that are not under the authority of the Syrian authorities is particularly worrying,” Putin said. There is an increased risk of extremism and separatism from these territories. “In many ways, the destructive line of the western states led by the United States encourages this,” the Kremlin chief lamented.

Ankara, Moscow and Tehran should therefore do everything possible to allow these areas to return to the rule of the “legitimate government”. The demand should also be understood against Turkish attempts to gain more influence in northern Syria.

Meanwhile, Erdogan called for support in the fight against terrorism. “Our fight against terrorist organizations will always continue, regardless of where or by whom it is supported,” said the Turkish leader.

He called on his counterparts Putin and Raisi to support the Turkish military operation in Syria. “We expect Russia and Iran to support us in the fight against terrorism,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish head of state referred to an agreement with Russia and the USA from 2019, according to which both countries should help to push Kurdish fighters out of the Syrian-Turkish border area. “It still hasn’t happened,” Erdogan said. “It’s long overdue.”

Raisi, on the other hand, struck a similar tone as Putin. “Iran believes that the only solution to the Syrian crisis is political and that military action is not only ineffective but will aggravate the situation,” Raisi said in a closing speech attended by Putin and Erdogan.

It was Putin’s first trip outside of former Soviet Union countries since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. The visit, just days after US President Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, shows Moscow is seeking closer strategic ties with other countries in the face of Western sanctions. In addition to Iran, these also include China and India.

Khamenei said Russia and Iran should start using their own national currencies for trading goods: “The US dollar should gradually disappear from world trade.” For Iran, which also suffers from Western economic sanctions and is at odds with the US nuclear program, Putin’s visit comes at the right time. The clerical leadership wants to strengthen strategic ties with Russia to counter a US-backed emerging Arab-Israeli bloc that could shift the balance of power in the Middle East against Iran.

But the situation is not easy. For example, Russia’s turn to China after the start of the Ukraine war significantly reduced Iranian oil exports to China – an important source of income for Tehran.

Reuters reported in May that China prefers heavily discounted Russian oil. Before Putin’s arrival, however, the Iranian oil company NIOC and the Russian gas producer Gazprom signed a cooperation agreement worth around 40 billion dollars.

In the past, the three states had already negotiated the future of Syria in the Astana format. The next Syria meeting in this format is to take place in Russia. The conflict in Syria began in March 2011 with peaceful protests against which the government used violence. From this the civil war developed.

With the help of their allies Russia and Iran, supporters of President Bashar al-Assad are once again in control of a large part of the country. The rest is under the control of Turkish troops, rebels or Kurds.

Russia itself has been waging a war of aggression against neighboring Ukraine since February and is supporting eastern Ukrainian separatists who have declared their independence. At a meeting with Erdogan, Putin expressed his gratitude for Ankara’s mediation on the issue of grain deliveries.