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Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran Tuesday to hold meetings with leaders from the region’s top players as he looks to solidify relations amid his war in Ukraine.
After meeting with Iran President Ebrahim Raisi, Putin is scheduled to hold talks with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when discussions on an array of issues ranging from the war in Syria to Moscow’s export blockade in the Black Sea are expected.
The Tuesday trip is only his second international venture since invading Ukraine in February and comes as Western officials warn that Moscow and Tehran are bolstering ties.
The White House announced last week that it has reason to believe that Tehran is sponsoring Putin’s war in Ukraine by providing it with sophisticated drones as Russian weapons supplies lag under heavy international sanctions.
White House Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. had received information indicating that Tehran was gifting “several hundred” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including weapons-capable UAVs, to Moscow “on an expedited timeline” – a move that could prompt additional international sanctions.
Fox News Digital could not reach the State Department for comment on whether the U.S. or NATO allies would target Iran in sanctions for appearing to assist Russia’s war effort, though the move comes as Western talks have stalled on securing a nuclear deal with Tehran.
However, as Putin looks to solidify an alliance with Iran amid his war in Ukraine – which has isolated Russia economically and diplomatically – he is also set to engage with Erdogan on the issue of the global food crisis.
Turkey, which is a NATO member, has led the way in hosting negotiations between Russia, Ukraine and United Nations in an attempt to lift the naval blockade in the Black Sea and ensure grain and other food products like cooking oil can be exported.
Officials have been sounding the alarm for months that Russian forces off of the Ukrainian coastline have blocked the export of some 20 million tons of grain and has led to food shortages felt worldwide.
Last week a preliminary agreement was reached by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. authorities that would open merchant shipping lanes in the Black Sea.
However, Putin still needs to sign off on the agreement before a ceasefire can be agreed to by the Russians, which would allow Ukrainian naval forces to escort merchant ships through mine infested waters.
Turkey has carefully toed the line when it comes to Russia’s war in Ukraine by refusing to sanction Moscow but simultaneously supplying Ukraine with some defense assistance like drones.
Putin’s visit comes just one week after President Biden toured the Middle East and visited with Saudi and Israeli leaders in a bid to encourage regional players, especially in the Gulf, to distance themselves from Russia.
The push to encourage Middle Eastern countries to further isolate Russia could prove difficult given Russia’s involvement in the war in Syria, military support for Turkey and its membership of OPEC Plus and its dealings with the members of the oil producing cartel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.