Iran and Syria agree military pact, following defence meeting
Iran has extended its influence in Syria by agreeing a military cooperation and reconstruction deal with Bashar al-Assad's regime, Iranian media reported on Monday.
It follows a series of meetings between Iranian and Syrian leaders, which looks set to deepen the relationship between the two allies and entrench Tehran's influence in the war-torn in the country.
"Syria is passing through the crisis stage and entering the reconstruction phase," said Iran's Defence Minister Amir Hatami, Tasnim news agency reported.
Hatami is on the second day of a two-day visit to Damascus, during which he held "detailed negotiations" with his counterpart Ali Abdullah Ayoub and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Iranian news agency.
The "defence and technical agreement" provides for the continued "presence and participation" of Iran in Syria, Hatami added.
Tehran has provided steady political, financial, and military backing to Assad as he has fought back a seven-year uprising.
Minister Ayoub also championed the two countries' "special relationship" on Sunday.
"Syrian-Iranian relations are a model for bilateral ties between independent and sovereign nations," Ayoub said.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard is a key player in Syria, having flooded the country with foreign militias.
The quasi-paramilitary force also operates thousands of companies - including construction enterprises - that helps the Guard retain a powerful hold over domestic politics.
Tehran and Damascus have had strong ties for years. Iran has dispatched military forces to Syria, describing them as "advisors".
Iran-backed militias, including the Lebanese Hizballah movement, have also backed Assad's troops, helping regime forces avoid complete collapse.
Tehran has poured in thousands of foreign fighters, which have been critical to the regime's recent successes against opposition forces.