Iran’s Defense Minister, Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, is in Russia for discussions on Syria’s seven-year conflict.
The talks on Tuesday came on the eve of a summit in Ankara between the Iranian, Russian, and Turkish Presidents.
The two sides presented ongoing offensives against the Syrian opposition and attacks on civilian areas — violating “de-escalation zones” declared by Iran, Russia, and Turkey last year — as “counter-terrorism cooperation”.
“As promised to the Syrian nation and regional nations, this cooperation will continue until the total annihilation of terrorists and the liberation of regional nations from the scourge of terrorism,” Hatami said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said joint Iran-Russia efforts in Syria have led to “appreciable results”, a reference to the recent capture of part of Idlib Province in the northwest and almost all of East Ghouta near Damascus in the south.
Despite the advances and their alliances propping up the Assad regime, Russia and Iran face tensions over their involvement in Syria, including competition for resources and economic interests. The two sides may also differ in the approach to Turkey, which has intervened alongside rebels to hold much of northwest Syria, and the long-term future of Bashar al-Assad.
Hatami also spoke about the July 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, Russia, France, Germany, and China), hailing it as an opportunity to expand Iran-Russia relations in defense, technology, and education.
The deal faces uncertainty over new and expanding US sanctions and a threat by Donald Trump to withdraw. Russia, like the other signatories of the agreement, support its continuation. However, Moscow has been muted about the call of the European Union and many of its members — including the UK, Germany, and France — for a deal on Iran’s ballistic missile program alongside the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.