Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of a summit in Beijing next week as tensions rise over Tehran’s nuclear drive, a Kremlin official said.
“Meeting Ahmadinejad will let Putin personally feel the tension around the Iranian issue and how it is perceived in Tehran,” Kremlin foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told reporters last week in comments that were embargoed for release until Sunday.
Putin and Ahmadinejad agreed to meet over the phone and the initiative came “from both sides,” Ushakov said.
The meeting will come as Russia prepares to host the latest round of talks on June 18 and 19 between world powers and Iranian negotiators in a bid to find a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme.
The Moscow talks will follow a meeting last month in Baghdad where the six world powers — the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany — confronted Tehran over its intention to enrich uranium despite fears it was building a nuclear bomb.
The talks achieved little in two days of intense discussions besides setting up the next meeting in Moscow.
Like Western capitals, Russia “was not too happy” with the outcome of the Baghdad talks, but “understood the main thing, which is readiness of both sides to continue talks,” Ushakov said.
“Only in dialogue is it possible to get a sense of any sort of compromise, which is crucial to unblock this situation… and leave out the most scary scenarios.”
Russia has repeatedly warned against using military action against Iran — an option never ruled out by Israel or the United States — and said that this could cause a catastrophe in the Middle East.
Putin will meet Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. He is also scheduled to speak with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai in a bilateral meeting.
The meeting with Ahmadinejad will be Putin’s first since his return to the Kremlin for a third term after a four-year stint as prime minister.
During his second term as president, Putin met Ahmadinejad in Tehran in 2007 in a rare visit to the country by the Kremlin chief.
The Russian delegation to the China summit is a show of force with “all the major names of Russian business in attendance,” said Ushakov.
Putin is also due to meet China’s President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
With China preparing for a stage-managed leadership change, Putin will also meet Vice Premier Li Kequiang, who is set to be the next premier, and Xi Jinping, who is tipped as the next president.