(Damascus) Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Wednesday in Damascus that Bashar al-Assad’s Syria had “ won victory ” in a country torn by a civil war for 12 years, and of which Tehran is one of the main allies.
“The government and the people of Syria 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,” said Mr. Raisi during a meeting with Mr. Assad amid diplomatic warming in the region.
This is the first visit by an Iranian president to Syria since 2010, when Tehran has never ceased to provide economic, political and military support to Mr. Assad’s regime, helping to tip the conflict in favor damask.
President Assad, for his part, considered that “ during difficult times ”, Syrian-Iranian relations were “ stable and constant, despite the serious political and security storms that have hit the Middle East ”.
Thanks to its Russian and Iranian allies, the Syrian regime now controls the majority of the territories lost since the start of the conflict in 2011. Despite a marked drop in the intensity of the fighting since 2019, the weapons have not totally killed.
Mr. Raisi’s visit takes place against the backdrop of a thaw in relations between the two heavyweights of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Iranian government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi said that this trip, at the invitation of President Assad, was of “strategic importance” for both countries and that its objective was “economic”.
Mr. Raisi is due to discuss bilateral relations, economic and political issues and “ positive developments ” on the regional diplomatic level, according to the Sana agency. And he is expected to visit several neighborhoods in Damascus, according to the pro-government Syrian daily Al-Watan.
From the start of the conflict in 2011, Tehran sent soldiers presented as advisers, in support of the Syrian army.
Iran supports foreign groups, such as the powerful Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah, which have fought alongside government forces.
Since 2013, Iran has also opened lines of credit, in particular to guarantee the oil needs of Syria, hit by an international embargo.
Damascus and Tehran additionally signed bilateral agreements in early 2019 in several areas, one of which included the inauguration of new ports in the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartous.
According to Al-Watan, “many agreements and memorandums of understanding” are to be signed during Mr. Raisi’s visit, particularly in the field of energy.
The newspaper added that a new line of credit to invest in the electricity sector should be negotiated, in a country where the power can be cut for up to twenty hours a day.
“The Iranian side has strongly presented itself as a contributor to the reconstruction phase,” Syrian political analyst Oussama Dannoura told AFP.
“ The visit will achieve important economic results and the focus could be on long-term economic strategies ”, he added.
The unexpected rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran benefits Bashar al-Assad, who is working to end more than a decade of diplomatic isolation.
Several Arab capitals long hostile to the regime in Damascus, including Riyadh, have recently reconnected with it, especially after the devastating earthquake in February in Turkey and Syria.
Mr. Raïsi’s visit “ became more appropriate after the Saudi-Iranian reconciliation ” which “ had an impact on all the sources of tension still existing ” in the region, underlines Oussama Dannoura.
The last Iranian president to visit Damascus was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in September 2010, before the war in Syria that left more than half a million dead.
President Assad visited Iran in May 2022, for the second time since the start of the war.