DAMASCUS: Visiting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday hailed Syria´s Bashar al-Assad for overcoming sanctions and achieving “victory” in the country´s 12-year-long civil war, in which Tehran has been a major ally.
The Syria conflict has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country´s infrastructure and industry. While the front lines have mostly quietened in recent years, large parts of the country´s north remain outside government control.
“Syria´s government and people have gone through great difficulties, and today we can say that you have overcome all these problems and achieved victory despite the threats and sanctions imposed on you,” Raisi told Assad, according to a statement from the Syrian presidency and Iran´s IRNA news agency.
Tehran has provided economic, political and military support to Syria, helping Damascus claw back most of the territory it lost at the start of the conflict and positioning itself in a leading role as Assad seeks to focus on reconstruction. Both countries remain under heavy Western sanctions.
Assad told Raisi that Syria-Iran ties “were stable and steady during difficult times despite heavy political and security storms that struck the Middle East”, according to the statement.
Iran “did not hesitate to provide political and economic support (to Syria), and even offered blood,” Assad added.
Raisi´s visit is the first by an Iranian president to Syria since the war broke out, and comes at a time when more regional capitals are re-engaging with the internationally isolated government in Damascus.
The large Iranian delegation includes the ministers of foreign affairs, defence, oil, roads and urban development as well as telecommunications.
Assad and Raisi signed memoranda of understanding on “long-term strategic cooperation”, covering fields including in oil, aviation, railways and agriculture, SANA said.