Rouhani heads to Moscow to meet with Putin

Iranian president to travel to Russian capital, in last state trip before seeking reelection in May

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected in Moscow on Monday for an official state visit which will include a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The leaders are set to discuss trade, energy and economin affairs but the regional situation in the Mideast and the Syrian civil war are also sure to be on the agenda.

The trip is expected to be Rouhani’s last before he seeks reelection in May and signals Moscow and Tehran’s growing ties in recent years as their interests aligned in the region.

The two countries have been staunch supporters of Syria’s Bashar Assad, providing the embattled president with military backing as well as diplomatic support, in Russia’s case, in the battle against rebel groups. The Syrian civil war, which began with peaceful protests in March 2011, has claimed the lives of over 400,000 people.

“The visit shows the importance that Russia has in Iranian foreign policy. For Russia, Iran is one of their most important political allies,” Mohsen Milani, the executive director of the Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida told the Washington Post in an article published on Sunday.

Iran is “playing a key role in Putin’s longer-term strategy to become a major player in the Middle East,” he added.

Rouhani and Putin had met at least eight times since the former became president in 2013, according to the Iranian state-run news agency IRNA.

Rouhani’s two-day visit to Russia will begin with a meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on March 27.

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