MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised his country’s relations with Iran at a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi, as the two discussed the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
Since launching its assault on Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow has sought to deepen its economic and political ties with Tehran, both of which have been sanctioned by the West.
“Our relations are developing very well. Please convey my best wishes to leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei,” Putin told Raisi, referring to Iran’s head of state.
“Thanks to his support, we have gained good momentum over the past year,” Putin said.
Western countries have accused Tehran of supporting Russia’s offensive in Ukraine by providing it with large quantities of drones and other weaponry.
The two also discussed the two-month-long Israel-Hamas war, which has drastically ratcheted up tensions between Israel and Arab states in the Middle East. Iran is a key supporter of Hamas and hailed the Gaza-ruling terror group’s onslaught in southern Israel on October 7, when Palestinian terrorists slaughtered some 1,200 people and took around 240 hostages after storming the border under the cover of heavy rocket fire.
Iranian leaders have threatened to expand the war in Gaza, and some armed groups it supports — including Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror organization and the Houthi rebels in Yemen — have launched repeated attacks against Israel. Iran-backed militias have also attacked US forces in Iraq and Syria amid the fighting in Gaza.
“It is very important for us to exchange views on the situation in the region, especially with regard to the situation in Palestine,” Putin said.
Putin spoke with Israeli and Arab leaders shortly after the war began and has sought to position himself as a potential peace mediator between the warring sides. But Putin, once a close Israeli ally, has been sharply critical of Israel since the war launched, as ties between Moscow and Jerusalem have soured following Israel’s support for Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.
Putin has repeatedly criticized the Jewish state’s offensive, called for aid to Gaza and urged a ceasefire. In one remark that was viewed by some as particularly stinging, Putin compared the “unacceptable” Israeli siege of Gaza to the Nazi blockade of Leningrad, which was seen by some as implicitly likening Israel to Nazi Germany.
Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US is concerned Russian paramilitary group Wagner could provide Hezbollah with an advanced air defense system.