Iranian president in Syria in first visit since war

Ebrahim Raisi and Bashar Assad signaled a rapprochement with a long-term strategic cooperation agreement

Iran and Syria have signed a long-term strategic cooperation agreement during the first visit between the two countries’ presidents since before war broke out in Syria over a decade ago, Damascus’ state news agency SANA reported on Wednesday.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met with Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad in Damascus on Wednesday to sign multiple memoranda of understanding on cooperation between the two countries in the fields of oil, communications and information technology, railways, civil aviation, agriculture, and free zones.

The leaders also agreed to mutual recognition of maritime certificates and signed a memorandum of understanding between the National Center for Earthquakes in Syria and the International Institute of Seismic Engineering in Iran.

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Assad and Raisi affirmed their countries’ shared geopolitical aims and discussed recent political moves in the region. “We are currently witnessing many political developments and changes in the region and the world, but relations between the two countries have not and will not be affected by these changes and developments,” Raisi promised, praising his host nation for “achiev[ing] victory despite the threats and sanctions imposed on you.

Iran will be “standing side by side with Syria, particularly during the period of reconstruction,” he said.

The last Iranian head of state to visit Syria was then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010, though Tehran has provided military and economic assistance to Damascus in the intervening years. While Assad’s government was targeted for isolation and destruction by the US and its allies, leading to estrangement from many of its Arab neighbors, regional hostilities have apparently cooled to the point that foreign ministers from Egypt and Saudi Arabia have visited Damascus in recent weeks.

America and its allies failed on all fronts against the resistance, and could not achieve any of their goals,” Iran’s newly-appointed ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbar, told Iranian state media on Tuesday.

In a further sign of thawing regional hostilities, in March Iran and Saudi Arabia reopened their mutual embassies after seven years without official communication, after China hosted a meeting between the countries’ foreign ministers.

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