image Photo: Reuters

Iran, Syria boost ties

The Arab Republic is hosting Iran’s top diplomat for talks in Damascus.

By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner

“We are talking about strategic ties and today, aside from all the dimensions of our relationship, the issue of economic relations is the priority,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told reporters.

Proclaiming in his native Persian language that relations between the two nations were “at their highest level,” Minister Amir-Abdollahian then stated in Arabic that Iran and Syria stand “shoulder-to-shoulder in the trenches together.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said the Ukraine crisis and its repercussions would be a focus of discussions between the two Middle East allies – both of which are challenged by Western sanctions.

“We are holding talks after the major developments after the Russian operation (in Ukraine) and we will discuss our joint positions towards these developments,” Mekdad disclosed.

Syria’s “coordination” with the Islamic Republic is ongoing at both “regional and international levels,” said Damascus’ top diplomat, while stressing his nation’s support for Iran at its nuclear negotiations with world powers in Vienna aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Amir-Abdollahian’s official state visit comes just one week after Syria commemorated the 11th anniversary since the outbreak of civil war amid pro-democracy protests.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was able to turn the tide of the conflict with crucial help from Iranian proxy militias and major Russian military intervention in 2015.

Iran has consolidated its military position in Syria, where bases run by its Shi’ite Muslim proxies are frequently targeted by Israeli airstrikes in a campaign aimed at preventing permanent entrenchment by the Islamic Republic.

Tehran’s economic influence in the war-torn country has surged in recent years, including provision of credit lines and lucrative business contracts to the Assad regime.