June 23, 2024

Sergey Shoigu meets senior military and security officials on visit to Tehran, says Russia-Iran ties have reached a new level.

Tehran, Iran – Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, has met senior military and security officials in Iran and toured an exhibition of Iranian missiles and drones.

Shoigu arrived in Tehran on Tuesday and was officially received by Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces.

He has met Iranian Defence Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) aerospace chief Amir Ali Hajizadeh and security chief Ali Akbar Ahmadian.

Bagheri told Shoigu that military cooperation is at the vanguard of expanding relations between Tehran and Moscow, who have been working on a new long-term cooperation plan for months.

“This document has serious military and defence dimensions, and can act as suitable grounds to expand long-term cooperation between the two countries,” he was quoted as saying by Iranian state media.

Bagheri said the two countries will hold joint military exercises in February 2024.

Shoigu said relations between the two countries had reached a new level.

“We are aiming at an entire range of planned activities, despite opposition from the United States and its Western allies,” Shoigu claimed according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

“Sanctions pressure on Russia and Iran shows its futility, while Russian-Iranian interaction is reaching a new level.”

Iranian and Russian military officials meet
Shoigu is seen visiting an aerospace exhibition in Tehran, which included missiles and air defence systems [Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via Reuters]

After meeting the IRGC’s Hajizadeh, the Russian defence chief was taken to an exhibition displaying an array of Iranian arms, including a selection of ballistic missiles, missile defence systems, and drones.

Among them was the Shahed-136, the kamikaze drone, or loitering munition, that Western allies have accused Tehran of supplying to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

Iran has consistently denied the accusations, saying it supplied Russia with drones prior to the war and supports bringing an end to the conflict through negotiations.

The United States and its allies have also warned that Tehran may be considering selling missiles to Russia for its war, despite Iran having made no such public announcements.

During his first official trip to Iran since the start of the Ukraine war last year, Shoigu also discussed tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, where Azeri forces launched a military operation this week.

Iranian officials told Shoigu that Tehran supports talks within the 3+3 format, which implies the participation of the three countries of the South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – and three closest neighbours in the region, namely Iran, Russia and Turkey.

The two sides also discussed “US unilateralism”, the expansion of regional blocs like BRICS and European powers’ promise to keep military sanctions on Iran despite sunset clauses in Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“Countering shared challenges, including US unilateralism, is among the most important and strategic issues in our joint efforts,” Iranian Defence Minister Ashtiani was quoted as telling Shoigu by local media.

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