Putin Continues His Blitz Round Of Mideast Diplomacy By Hosting The Iranian President

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Oman's Crown Prince Theyazin bin Haitham during their talks on the sidelines of the annual VTB Capital "Russia Calling!" Investment Forum in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (Vyacheslav Prokofyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Oman's Crown Prince Theyazin bin Haitham during their talks on the sidelines of the annual VTB Capital "Russia Calling!" Investment Forum in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (Vyacheslav Prokofyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Iran’s president Thursday as part of a blitz round of Middle East diplomacy that also included visits to United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in efforts to raise Moscow’s profile as a power broker in the region.

Putin has cast the Israel-Hamas war as a failure of U.S. diplomacy and suggested Moscow could be a mediator, thanks to its friendly ties with both Israel and the Palestinians.

“It's very important for us to exchange views of the situation in the region, particularly regarding the Palestinian situation,” Putin said as he welcomed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the start of their talks in Moscow.

Raisi emphasized the need to quickly stop the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, declaring that “a child is killed there every 10 minutes.”

“It’s not just a regional issue, it’s an issue for the entire humankind,” he told Putin, adding that “it’s necessary to find a quick solution.”

Iran, which has been a staunch supporter of Hamas, has warned repeatedly that the war, which erupted on Oct. 7, could spread to other parts of the region.

Putin’s meeting with Raisi on Thursday follows their talks in Tehran in July 2022, where the Russian leader received strong support for his action in Ukraine.

After it sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has further expanded its ties with Iran, securing supplies of Iranian exploding drones that it has used extensively in attacks on Ukraine. Last month, the White House voiced concern that Tehran may also provide Moscow with ballistic missiles for use against Ukraine.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby has pointed to Iran’s announcement that it had finalized a deal to buy Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, and noted that Iran is looking to buy additional military equipment from Russia, including attack helicopters, radars and combat-trainer aircraft.

Putin's talks with Raisi come a day after the Russian leader discussed the hostilities in the Gaza Strip during his trip to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the key participants in international efforts to negotiate a settlement. Putin has close personal ties with both UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Although the UAE and Saudi Arabia are close U.S. allies, they have developed strong business ties with Russia. On a visit to Abu Dhabi’s Qasr al-Watan palace, Putin was greeted with a 21-gun salute and a flyby of UAE military jets trailing smoke in the colors of the Russian flag.

In Saudi Arabia, Putin and Mohammed discussed the cooperation under OPEC+ during Wednesday’s talks, noting their countries’ responsibility for stabilizing the global oil market.

Prior to sitting down for talks with Raisi, Putin on Thursday also hosted Oman’s Crown Prince Theyazin bin Haitham, extolling prospects for cooperation in energy and tourism.

Putin, who has limited his foreign travel since sending troops into invade Ukraine, visited China in October and made several trips to former Soviet nations in recent months.

He faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court over the war in Ukraine.

Neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia has signed the ICC founding treaty, meaning they didn’t face an obligation to detain Putin over the warrant accusing him of being personally responsible for the abductions of children from Ukraine during the war. Putin skipped a summit in South Africa amid speculation he could be arrested on arrival.