MOSCOW — Days before the historic summit in Helsinki between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, each president is honing his negotiation skills. While the US leader has been in Europe arguing with NATO allies, the Russian president is having yet another diplomatic marathon with Syria’s vital stakeholders. No sooner had the Israeli prime minister left Moscow than Putin hosted Ali Akbar Velayati, the supreme leader of Iran's senior adviser for international affairs, at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and presidential aide Yury Ushakov also took part in the meeting.
The top aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came on an important mission to deliver to Putin two written messages: one from Khamenei, the other from President Hassan Rouhani. The spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Bahram Qassemi, explained that the letters emphasize “the importance of relations between Iran and Russia” and that Velayati will also deliver similar messages in China to the Chinese leadership. Tehran claims it thus seeks to explain Iran’s “views and stances regarding the United States’ selfish and illegal behavior” to the two critical partners.