Iran's Raisi calls Syria trip a 'turning point'

Iran's Raisi calls Syria trip a 'turning point'
Raisi said Iran and Syria had signed 15 "cooperation documents" which would allow "both countries to open a new chapter in economic relations".
2 min read
Iran has long propped up Damascus with economic and military aid [Getty images]

Iran's president on Thursday hailed his visit to Damascus as a "turning point", after Tehran's support helped Syria retake most of the territory it lost in 12 years of war.

Ebrahim Raisi's two-day trip is the first such visit to Tehran's close ally since 2010, and gives Iran a leading role as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seeks to focus on reconstruction, despite Western sanctions on both countries.

"This trip will be a turning point in Iran-Syria relations and will have an effect on the region and the trade and economic relations of the two countries," Raisi said during an event for businessmen.

His visit comes weeks after Iran and its arch-rival Saudi Arabia agreed to restore ties, prompting regional capitals to re-engage with the internationally isolated governments in Damascus and Tehran.

"In no way do we consider the level of economic activity between Iran and Syria to be proportional to the level of political relations between the two countries," Raisi said.

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"We believe that there should be a leap forward in commercial relations."

Iran has long propped up Damascus with economic and military aid, including bringing in the powerful Tehran-backed Hezbollah group to fight alongside Assad's forces.

The Syrian conflict erupted with the repression of peaceful protesters in 2011, and has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions.

Large parts of the northern Syria are still outside government control.

Assad is eyeing reconstruction deals to revive the country's devastated economy and infrastructure.

Raisi said Iran and Syria had signed 15 "cooperation documents" which would allow "both countries to open a new chapter in economic relations".

On Wednesday, Raisi and Assad signed memoranda of understanding on "long-term strategic cooperation", covering fields including oil, aviation, railways and agriculture.