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Putin calls Rouhani, reaffirms importance of Russia-Iran ties

epa03132446 Russia's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin speaks on phone at his campaign headquarters in Moscow, Russia 04 March 2012. According to Russia's Central Election Commission (CEC), Vladimir Putin overwhelmingly won the vote while ballots continue to be counted. EPA/ALEXEY DRUGINYN / RIA NOVOSTI / GOVERNMENT PRESS SERVICE POOL MANDATORY CREDIT

Days after his election victory Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has spoken on the telephone to Russian President Putin in a sign of the importance the two leaders attach to the development of relations between their two countries.

The Kremlin has not disclosed which of the two leaders initiated the call.  However since Putin appears to have used the call to congratulate Rouhani on his victory most likely it was him.

The Kremlin’s summary of the call suggests that its chief purpose was to discuss the development of bilateral relations, though obviously the conflict in Syria was discussed

The two presidents once again expressed their firm intention to deepen the multifaceted bilateral cooperation in fulfilment of the agreements reached during the visit of the Iranian President to the Russian Federation on March 27–28, 2017. A special focus was placed on trade and economic cooperation, including the implementation of joint projects in oil and gas and nuclear energy.

When discussing the situation in Syria, the two leaders stressed the importance of stepping up joint efforts to facilitate the political and diplomatic settlement of the conflict, particularly within the framework of the Astana process and through the implementation of the Memorandum on the Creation of De-Escalation Areas in Syria.

The reference to Rouhani’s visit to Russia in March – when the Russians pulled out the stops to welcome him as a potential partner – shows the importance the Russians attach to that visit and to the agreements which were concluded during it.

As I have recently said, the extraordinary hostility expressed towards Iran by US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman means that Iran has no realistic choice but to prioritise its bilateral ties with Russia and China and to integrate itself to the greatest degree possible with the Eurasian institutions.

Putin is unlikely to have made that point explicitly to Rouhani during the call.  However the call itself would have been a reminder of it.

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