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Putin to host Iran’s Raisi in Moscow amid nuclear talks

Kremlin says leaders will discuss ‘whole range of issues of bilateral cooperation,’ including 2015 deal; visit is first by an Iranian president to Russia since 2017

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses during a joint session of lawmakers and cabinet members at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran, December 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses during a joint session of lawmakers and cabinet members at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran, December 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Russian President Vladimir Putin will host his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow on Wednesday, the Kremlin said, amid talks aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal.

The meeting will be Raisi’s most important official visit abroad since he took office in August, and the first visit by an Iranian president to Russia since 2017.

The leaders will discuss the “whole range of issues of bilateral cooperation,” including the 2015 deal that offered Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, the Kremlin said in a statement.

In 2018, Washington announced its unilateral withdrawal from the agreement under former president Donald Trump, prompting Iran to walk back its commitments.

Since last year, Iran has been in talks with the signatories of the accord — the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany — to restore the deal, but negotiations stopped in June after Raisi’s election. They resumed in November.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this month noted “real progress” in the talks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Presidential Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on December 9, 2021. ( Metzel / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Moscow and Tehran have strong political, economic and military ties, shared interests in Afghanistan, and are key allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s decade-long civil war.

This will be Raisi’s third visit outside Iran — after Tajikistan and neighboring Turkmenistan — since he took over the presidency in August from moderate Hassan Rouhani.

The Iranian side confirmed the visit, saying Raisi would leave Wednesday for a two-day trip to Russia together with the country’s oil, foreign and economy ministers.

A Russian lawmaker told reporters that Raisi would speak at the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, on Thursday, while TASS news agency cited a source as saying he would meet with religious leaders at Moscow’s main mosque.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh during a press conference in Tehran, on February 22, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

On Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said it was time for the United States to make political decisions to resolve key remaining issues, including on lifting sanctions, at talks aimed at reviving Tehran’s nuclear deal.

“What remains are important and key issues that require specific political decisions,” he said at his weekly news conference.

“Washington, in particular, must announce its decisions on removing sanctions and the remaining issues,” he said. “If this happens… we will reach a lasting, reliable agreement at a good pace.”

His remarks came on the day chief negotiators were due to return to Vienna for the talks after having traveled home on Saturday for consultations.

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