Foreign ministers of Iran, Syria meet in Tehran amid deal on zero tariff trade

Foreign ministers of Iran, Syria meet in Tehran amid deal on zero tariff trade
Iran and Syria agreed on a zero-trade tariff deal, facilitating commercial exchanges and setting the stage for increased economic cooperation.
3 min read
31 July, 2023
Mekdad’s visit sought to "strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries" [Getty]

Syrian regime foreign minister Faisal Mekdad met his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran on Monday, according to state media reports.

Mekdad’s visit sought to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries and discuss the latest regional and international developments, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

Earlier on Monday, Iran and the Syrian regime reached a landmark agreement on a zero-trade tariff deal, signalling a significant step in enhancing economic cooperation between the two countries.

The announcement was made by the Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Mehrdad Bazrpash, according to the hardline Tasnim News Agency.

"From now on, the tariffs on goods between the two countries are set at zero, enabling traders to export and import goods with no percentage of tariffs," said Bazrpash during a meeting with Syrian Economy Minister Samir Abdul Rahman Khalil who was visiting Tehran.

The agreement followed a series of "productive" discussions that took place during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's visit to Syria in May, Bazrpash said.

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An Iranian bank is set to start operations in Syria within the coming weeks, Bazrpash said, adding that it was a significant achievement considering the typically prolonged process involved.

"Normally, such endeavours would take several years, so obtaining permission for the Iranian bank to operate in Syria within three months is worth appreciating," Bazrpash said.

Iran and Syria previously agreed to establish a joint bank and insurance firm during Raisi's visit to Damascus in May, aimed at further facilitating direct bilateral trade.

Iran's isolation from the international Swift financial system due to the reimposition of US sanctions in 2018 had presented a significant challenge to its international banking access.

In January, Iran and Russia initiated a connection between their interbank communication and transfer systems to bolster trade and financial transactions amid Western sanctions faced by both Tehran and Moscow.

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Russia and Iran have both backed Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria's brutal 12-year war, where more than half a million have died and millions more displaced, mostly as a result of Assad regime bombardment of civilian areas.

Iran has sent thousands of militia fighters to support the regime on the ground, following losses rebels early on in the uprising.

Following other military setbacks for the regime, Russia intervened with air support in September 2015, bombing opposition areas and helping Assad's forces win back most of Syria's territory

Iranian-backed militias and proxies have also been killed by Israeli airstrikes throughout the conflict, including at the Damascus airport which has been shut down several times because of Israeli raids.

Iran and Russia both maintain significant military and economic interests in Syria , including Moscow's control of the Hmeimim and Tartous air and naval bases on the coast.