Iran coordinates military presence in Syria with Russia: Iranian official

Middle East expert and author Joel Rosenberg

Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's top adviser on worldwide affairs, smiles as he listens to questions from the media during a news conference after meeting with Lebanon's Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the government palace in Beirut May 18, 2015.

Speaking to reporters upon arrival in Moscow on Wednesday, Ali Akbar Velayati lauded Tehran-Moscow relations as "strategic", expressing hope that his visit would be a turning point in bilateral ties. As a result of the 2015 nuclear deal, a number of Western energy companies entered the Iranian energy sector.

Velayati hailed Iran's ties with Russian Federation on Wednesday as "strategic" and said he would deliver messages to Putin from Khamenei and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani.

Both countries emphasized continuation of Astana talks between Iran, Russia and Turkey, he said.

Russian Federation has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's key ally in the seven-year-long civil war.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Tuesday that Velayati's visit was part of efforts to make Iran's stance clear after the United States pullout from the JCPOA signed between Tehran and the P5+1 group of countries in 2015.

Velayati is among special envoys that Iran is sending to various countries in response to the U.S. withdrawal earlier this year from the 2015 nuclear deal.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said Velayati will also pay a visit to China to convey messages from Ayatollah Khamenei and Rouhani to Chinese leaders. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday the United States might consider requests from some countries to be exempted from sanctions.

Ali Akbar Velayati, an global adviser to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution who is in Russian Federation for an official visit, has shrugged off the concurrent trip to Russian Federation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying "nobody cares" about the Netanyahu's "baseless and illogical remarks". Israel has maintained ties with Assad's ally Russian Federation, but has opposed the presence of his other top partner Iran.

Velayati also said Iran and Russian Federation would "continue to cooperate in Syria", where both countries support President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the seven-year civil war there.

Trump and Putin are expected to discuss Iran's regional role and the Syrian conflict at a summit in Helsinki next Monday.

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