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Iran, China and Russia hold joint naval drills in show of unity

Revolutionary Guard will also participate in drills including night fighting, rescue operations and firefighting exercises
A handout picture made available by the Iranian Army official website on 21 January 2022 shows a crew taking part in a parade of Iranian, Russian, and Chinese warships during a joint military drill in the Indian ocean (AFP)

Iran, China and Russia held joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean on Friday which they said were aimed at boosting marine security, Iranian state TV reported.

An official from Iran's armed forces said 11 vessels were participating in the "2022 Marine Security Belt" exercises along with three Russian ships and two Chinese vessels, which included a guided-missile destroyer.

State TV said Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corp also took part in the drills with helicopters and small ships. 

The report said the manoeuvres covered 17,000 square kilometres in the northern Indian Ocean, and included night fighting, rescue operations and firefighting exercises.

This is the third joint naval drill between the countries since 2019 and comes as the three face off against the West in a legion of hot spots across the globe.  

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Friday's military exercises came hot on the heels of a visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Russia that ended on Thursday.

"Improving bilateral relations between Tehran and Moscow will enhance security for the region and the international arena," Raisi said upon returning from Russia, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Raisi said he had presented Moscow with draft documents on strategic ties that would cement joint collaboration for the next two decades.

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the two countries' "close cooperation" in the region, particularly in Syria, despite divisions over Israel's military strikes there.

The meeting also focused on the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna, with Putin, whose country is one of the original signatories to the deal, telling his Iranian counterpart that it was "very important" for Moscow to know Raisi's opinion on the accord.

China's participation in the exercises came after a whirlwind of Beijing's own diplomatic activity in the region and follows a meeting on Saturday between Chinese and Iranian foreign ministers to announce the launch of a 25-year cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening economic and political ties.

Meanwhile, Russia is at loggerheads with the US and the West over its neighbour, Ukraine. Moscow has reportedly sent some 100,000 troops to the border, which Washington, Kiev and their allies fear will be used to invade the country.