Russia and Iran jointly oppose “external attempts” to bring regime change in Syria, a Kremlin official said Monday in Tehran after President Vladimir Putin met supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The comments were a direct rebuff of repeated demands from the United States, France, Britain and Gulf Arabs that President Bashar Assad step down and play no future role in war-torn Syria.
On his first trip to Iran in eight years, Putin, accompanied by his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, went straight into a meeting with Khamenei.
Describing the 90-minute encounter as “quite constructive” and longer than planned, a Kremlin spokesman said the two countries had “unity of views” on Syria.
Russia and Iran are against “external attempts to dictate scenarios of political settlement” in the conflict-wracked state, and only Syria's people could decide to dump Assad in elections following a ceasefire.
Khamenei said the US had a “long-term plan” to dominate Syria and the Middle East which would “disadvantage all countries, especially Iran and Russia”.
“This threat should be neutralized wisely and with closer interaction,” he was quoted as saying in a statement.
Putin said on Monday Russian airstrikes in Syria would last as long as was necessary to punish those guilty of blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt last month, an incident in which 224 people were killed.
Khamenei, at a meeting with Putin in Tehran, said US policies in the region were a threat to both countries and called for closer ties between Tehran and Moscow.
“The Americans have a long-term plot and are trying to dominate Syria and then the whole region...This is a threat to all countries, especially Russia and Iran,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said at the meeting on the sidelines of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum Summit in Tehran, according to the state news agencies.
“The United states is trying to achieve its failed military objectives in Syria now through political means,” he added, referring to proposed peace talks to end the civil war in Syria.
Putin on Monday eased restrictions on Russian companies working on Iranian enrichment sites as he traveled to Tehran for his first visit since 2007.
A decree Putin signed on Monday enables Russian firms to help modify centrifuges at the Fordo enrichment site and help Tehran redesign its Arak heavy water reactor.
Russian companies can now also carry out activities linked to Iranian exports of enriched uranium of more than 300 kg in exchange for the supplies of natural uranium to Iran, the Kremlin decree said.