Putin forges ties with Iran's supreme leader in Tehran

STORY: In his first trip outside the former Soviet Union since Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday had talks with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran.

He also had a face-to-face meeting with Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran to discuss Ukraine's Black Sea grain exports and the conflict in northern Syria.

Putin’s trip comes just days after U.S. President Joe Biden visited Israel and Saudi Arabia, sending a strong message to the West about Moscow's plans to forge closer strategic ties with Iran, China and India in the face of Western sanctions.

In another meeting, Putin, Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi weighed efforts to reduce violence in Syria.

Speaking at the end of those talks, Putin said the three presidents were committed to efforts to "normalize" the situation there after a decade of conflict.

"We agreed with our Iranian and Turkish colleagues to continue the practice of holding regular international expert consultations on Syria under the auspices of the Astana format. Along with the delegations of our three countries, Syrian parties take part in these consultations: the government and the opposition, the observer states - Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as the U.N. representatives."

Putin, who turns 70 this year, has made few foreign trips in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then the Ukraine crisis. His last trip beyond the former Soviet Union was to China in February.