(Damascus) Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country strongly supports the Syrian government, is visiting Damascus on Wednesday for the first time since the start of the war in 2011, as Syria seeks funding for reconstruction.

In the center of the capital Damascus, fortifications present since the early years of the conflict around the Iranian embassy have been removed in recent days, according to an AFP correspondent.

It is the first visit by an Iranian president to Syria since 2010, although Tehran has provided economic, political and military support to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, helping to tip the conflict in favor of Damascus.

Attracting capital to finance the reconstruction of the country with its devastated infrastructure is a priority for the government, since its forces have reconquered most of the territories lost at the start of the war.

This two-day official visit takes place in a context of diplomatic warming in the region, marked by the thaw of relations between the two heavyweights of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi said the trip, at the invitation of President Assad, was of “strategic importance” for both countries and that its purpose was “economic”.

“The two countries have successfully cooperated in the areas of security and counter-terrorism,” and they “can also cooperate in the reconstruction” of Syria, he added.

Mr. Raisi is due to meet Bashar al-Assad and discuss bilateral relations, economic and political issues and “positive developments” on the regional diplomatic level, according to the official Syrian agency Sana.

According to the pro-government Syrian daily Al-Watan, the Iranian president is expected to visit several neighborhoods in Damascus.

From the start of the conflict, Tehran sent soldiers, whom it describes as advisers, in support of the Syrian army.

Iran supports foreign groups affiliated with it and have fought alongside government forces, including the powerful Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah.

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, “numerous agreements and memorandums of understanding” need to be signed, especially 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 yield important economic results and the focus could be on long-term economic strategies,” he added, saying it will “open a new page in the close relationship between the two.” country “.

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 returned to it, especially after the devastating earthquake in February in Turkey and Syria.

Mr. Raisi’s visit “became more appropriate after the Saudi-Iranian reconciliation”, which, underlines Oussama Dannoura, “has had an impact on all the hotbeds of tension still existing” in the region.

The last Iranian president to visit Damascus was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in September 2010, before the war in Syria that left around half a million dead.

President Assad visited Iran in May 2022, for the second time since the start of the war.