MOSCOW — Russia’s defense minister met with his Iranian counterpart Tuesday and hailed the two country’s cooperation in Syria.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at the start of talks with his Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami that “our joint work in Syria has brought appreciable results.”
Russia and Iran both have backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the seven-year civil war, helping Assad’s army turn the conflict in his favor.
Shoigu told Hatami that Moscow and Tehran now need to focus on restoring Syria and helping refugees who fled the war to return.
The defense ministers’ talks in Moscow came on the eve of a trilateral meeting of the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Ankara that is expected to focus on next steps in Syria.
Last month, Iran signed a $742 million (600 million euro) deal with Russian state-owned energy firm Zarubezhneft to boost production at two oil fields in the country’s west.
The deal comes amid heightened fears that US President Donald Trump will withdraw from the 2015 deal to restrict Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of crippling economic sanctions.
Israel, America’s closest Mideast ally, and other regional nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are deeply concerned about the influence of Iran and its allies, including the Shiite terror group Hezbollah, inside Syria.
The US military presence in Syria has been seen as a buffer against unchecked Iranian activity, and especially against Tehran’s desire to establish a contiguous land route from Iran to the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.