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Iran, Russia need to boost defense cooperation to improve regional security: Minister

Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani (3rd from right) meets with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu (3rd from left) in Astana, Kazakhstan, on April 26, 2024. (Photo by Iran's Defense Ministry)

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani says Iran and Russia should promote defense and military cooperation to improve regional security and stability.

Ashtiani made the remarks in a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on the sidelines of the 21st meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Defense Ministers in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Friday.

He said Tehran and Moscow should oppose unilateralism in global issues.

He thanked Russia for condemning Israel's illegal and unlawful airstrikes against Iran's diplomatic premises in the Syrian capital of Damascus on April 1 and expressing support for Tehran's legitimate response.

"Terrorist attacks in Russia and Iran are the outcome of support of Western countries, especially the United States, for terrorist groups," Ashtiani emphasized.

On April 1, the Israeli regime carried out terrorist airstrikes on the consular section of Iran's embassy in the Syrian capital, which killed two generals of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi and General Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, as well as five of their accompanying officers.

In retaliation, the IRGC targeted the occupied territories on April 13 with a barrage of drones and missiles. The retaliatory strikes, dubbed Operation True Promise, inflicted damage on Israeli military bases across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Elsewhere in the conversation, the Iranian defense chief warned that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and some Western countries are taking steps in line with the policy of expansion to the East.

He urged the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states to use the body's capacities to thwart common threats.

For his part, the Russian defense minister slammed Israel's attacks on Iran's diplomatic premises in Damascus and said Tehran's response was in accordance with the legitimate right of self-defense.

Ashtiani and Shoigu also hailed the successful experience of Iran and Russia in the fight against terrorism in the region and called for the expansion of cooperation to counter terrorist threats, separatism and extremism.

The Iranian and Russian defense chiefs emphasized that the developments in the South Caucasus are important to the two countries' interests, noting that the presence of extra-regional powers in this region is detrimental to common interests.

They said that the 3+3 format, which is being implemented in the presence of all the countries of the Caucasus region, is an appropriate framework for solving problems, according to a statement by Iran's Defense Ministry. 

The 3+3 format includes three southern Caucasus countries (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia) and three neighboring countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran).

Iran was one of the countries that proposed the formation of a 3+3 group in line with its foreign policy of resolving problems, differences and challenges faced by countries in the region.

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