Moscow Consoles Ally Iran After President, Foreign Minister Killed in Helicopter Crash

Moscow Consoles Ally Iran After President, Foreign Minister Killed in Helicopter Crash
Rescue team members work at the crash site of a helicopter after an accident killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Varzaghan, northwestern Iran, on May 20, 2024. (Azin Haghighi/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia’s president and foreign minister have sent messages of condolence to Tehran after their Iranian counterparts were both killed in a helicopter crash.

On the evening of May 19, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian died when their helicopter crashed in Iran’s Eastern Azerbaijan province.

According to Iranian media reports, seven other people—including the province’s regional governor—were also killed in the crash, the causes of which remain unclear.

In a statement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed Moscow’s “deep sorrow” over the incident.

“We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the deceased and to the entire friendly nation of Iran,” Mr. Lavrov said.

He described Mr. Raisi, 63, and Mr. Amir-Abdollahian, 60, as “true friends” of Russia who had played key roles in strengthening relations between the two countries.

In recent years, Russia and Iran—both the targets of relentless Western-led sanctions—have drawn increasingly close, especially in terms of security.

The two countries cooperate closely in Syria, where they both maintain forces to support Damascus against what they regard as “foreign-backed terrorist groups.”

The West, for its part, accuses Russia of using Iran-manufactured “suicide” drones in its ongoing invasion of eastern Ukraine—a charge Moscow denies.

NTD Photo
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov holds a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart after a meeting in Moscow on Oct. 6, 2021. (Kirill KudryavtsevI/Pool via Getty Images)

Burgeoning Relationship

During the search for Mr. Raisi’s crashed helicopter, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to send aircraft and mountaineers to assist in the rescue efforts.

In his own note of condolence, posted on the Kremlin’s website, Mr. Putin described his Iranian counterpart as a “remarkable man” who he had met on “several occasions.”

He also praised the Iranian leader for his contribution to the “development of good neighborly relations between our countries and [his] great efforts to bring them to the level of strategic partnership.”

Mr. Putin held face-to-face meetings with Mr. Raisi five times since the latter assumed the presidency of Iran in 2021.

The last meeting was in December, when Mr. Raisi visited Moscow to discuss Israel’s ongoing Gaza offensive with the Russian leader.

At the time, White House national security spokesman John Kirby described the “burgeoning defense relationship” between the two countries as “worrisome.”

In late 2022, the Russian and Iranian leaders met in Uzbekistan for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a formidable bloc of Eurasian states led by Moscow and Beijing.

Last July, Iran became a full-fledged member of the SCO, whose other members include Pakistan, India, and four Central Asian republics.

In a further sign of warming ties, Iran formally joined the BRICS group of nations—along with Egypt, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates—early this year.

Established in 2010, BRICS is an intergovernmental organization originally comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Before his unexpected death, Mr. Raisi had been slated to attend a major BRICS summit that just wrapped up in the Russian city of Kazan.

“We’re sparing no effort to ensure that Mr. Raisi, as president of Iran and a new member of BRICS, attends the summit in the friendly nation of Russia,” Kazem Jalali, Iran’s ambassador to Moscow, told reporters last week.

NTD Photo
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the funeral ceremony of the victims of a bomb explosion in the city of Kerman, Iran, on Jan. 5, 2024. (Vahid Salemi/AP Photo)

For months, Moscow and Tehran have been holding talks aimed at forging a “strategic partnership” between their two countries.

In February, Alexey Dedov, Russia’s ambassador to Iran, said a draft agreement to this effect was in its final stages and would soon be signed by both sides.

The terms of the deal remain unknown, but Mr. Dedov said the agreement—if signed—would “determine Russia-Iran interaction for the coming years, perhaps decades.”

“We’re talking about a new interstate agreement, a comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries,” he told Russia’s Sputnik news agency.

In late March, Mr. Jalali, Tehran’s envoy to Moscow, said the strategic partnership agreement would likely be signed sometime this year.

“Hopefully, this document will be signed in 2024,” he told Sputnik.

“The most important thing is to have this document drawn up,” the diplomat added.

According to Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, the continued development of bilateral ties will not be affected by Mr. Raisi’s death.

“We reaffirm our commitment to close, in-depth cooperation [with Iran] on both bilateral and international issues,” Mr. Ryabkov told reporters on May 20.

“We also hew to the position that all agreements reached earlier will be implemented,” he added.

Mr. Ryabkov did not explicitly mention the pending strategic partnership deal.

He stressed, however, that the two countries would continue to “gradually” develop their bilateral ties, especially in terms of “strengthening security.”

From The Epoch Times

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