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Iran's Raeisi, Syria's Assad ink long-term strategic cooperation agreement

Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad signed 15 documents to expand cooperation between the two countries, Damascus, May 3, 2023. (Photo by

Presidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Arab Republic of Syria have singed an agreement on “long-term strategic comprehensive cooperation” between the two countries.

The two presidents held a meeting earlier in the day in Damascus, highlighting the importance of Iran-Syria’s long-term cooperation plan for advancing the interests of the two nations and other countries in the region.

In addition to the strategic cooperation agreement, the two presidents inked 14 other documents in various areas, including trade, oil and energy, engineering, housing, rail and aerial transportation, free trade zones, communications and technology, earthquake reliefs, and facilitation of pilgrimage to the holy sites for the people of the two Muslim nations.

Heading a high-ranking politico-economic delegation, President Ebrahim Raeisi arrived in Damascus on Wednesday. The visit is the first by an Iranian president since the foreign-backed militancy gripped the Arab country in 2011.

Mehrdad Bazrpash, the Iranian road minister and head of the Iran-Syria Joint Economic Commission, described the signed documents as “nearly unprecedented both in terms of number and importance of [addressed] issues.”

“A major section of these documents seeks to facilitate trade between the two countries,” he told IRIB after the signing ceremony, noting that the agreements will improve the quality and volume of bilateral trade.

Tehran and Damascus are also set to discuss the establishment of a joint bank and joint insurance that will ease trade, said the official, adding that one Syrian and one Iranian bank will carry out financial transactions till the the joint institution is set up. 

According to one of the agreements, 50,000 Iranians will be able to make pilgrimage to the shrine of Hazrat Zainab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in Damascus on a yearly basis, using three to five direct flights every week, Bazrpash said. He added that the operation to dispatch pilgrims will start in the next two months.

Experts had earlier stressed the importance of economic aspects of Raiesi’s visit to Damascus, noting that increased economic cooperation would help confront the Western-imposed sanctions on both states.

The US has imposed rounds of crippling sanctions on Damascus. Parts of the restrictive measures have been imposed under the so-called Caesar Act, an American piece of legislation that purports to target the Assad government, despite sharp criticisms that the bans affect civilians.

The US also restored its sanctions against Tehran after unilaterally leaving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), three years after its conclusion. The US, under former president Donald Trump, launched what it called a maximum pressure campaign against Iran at the time, targeting the Iranian nation with the “toughest ever” sanctions.

In the meeting with President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, Raeisi noted that Iran will stand by its Syrian brothers in the post-war era of reconstruction as was the case during the fight against terrorism.

Raeisi’s deputy chief of staff for political affairs, Mohammad Jamshidi, tweeted that the meeting was “serious and constructive,” and lasted for four hours.

Mohammad Jamshidi noted that the two leaders focused on “reviewing and coordinating on the region’s strategic environment,” including the issue of Palestine.

Meanwhile, the Syrian president called for Iran to play a bigger role in establishing sustainable peace in the country and reconstructing war-torn parts of Syria.

Back on April 26, Assad had called for the utilization of new prospects of economic cooperation and trade ties with Iran in a meeting with Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash in Damascus.

Assad emphasized that it is crucial to translate the depth of the political relationship between Syria and Iran into the economic domain. He also stated that both governments need to find ways to increase their growth.

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