Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi accused the West on Thursday of supporting “genocide” by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza, at the start of talks in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin.
As part of a burst of meetings focused on the Middle East, Putin greeted Raisi in the Kremlin a day after visiting the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, where he discussed oil prices and the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.
In televised opening remarks, Putin said it was very important to discuss the situation in the Middle East, especially in the Palestinian territories.
Raisi responded via a translator: “What is happening in Palestine and Gaza is of course genocide and a crime against humanity.”
Iran backs the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the ruling authority in Gaza, in its war with Israel. Russia has relations with all the key players in the Middle East including Hamas and Israel, which it angered by hosting a Hamas delegation in Moscow in October.
Analysts say the Gaza conflict has helped Russia by distracting world attention from the war in Ukraine and enabling Moscow to align itself with other developing countries in solidarity with the Palestinians.
Israel has previously said allegations of genocide are deplorable and that its actions target Hamas, not civilians.
Like North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un held a summit with Putin in Russia’s far east in September, Iran is an avowed enemy of the US and has the capacity to provide Moscow with military hardware for its war in Ukraine, where Russia has made extensive use of Iranian drones.
The United States has voiced strong concern over the growing military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
The Kremlin last month said Russia and Iran were developing their relations, “including in the field of military-technical cooperation”, but declined to comment on a suggestion by the White House that Iran may be considering providing Russia with ballistic missiles.