Syrian Minister Reaches Defense Deal With Iran During Tehran Visit

Deal would cement 'defense relations,' includes understanding that foreign occupying forces must retreat.

Syria and Iran on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding regarding defense issues, as Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani wrapped up a three-day visit to Tehran.

The memorandum contained an agreement that the two countries would cement their "defense relations," a process that will include reciprocal visits by military officials, joint military training and cooperation on technical advancements.

During Turkmani's visit, Syrian and Iranian military cooperation committees met three times. The committees are headed by Turkmani and his Iranian counterpart Mostafa Mohammed Najjar.

Turkmani visited Iranian industrial sites during his trip and met with the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and senior military advisors.

The memorandum signed by both sides includes the understanding that all foreign occupying forces must retreat from the region because they are "creating tensions." This clause can be interpreted in several ways, but likely refers to U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Israeli presence in the Palestinian Authority.

Iran was caught by surprise last week by simultaneous Syrian and Israeli announcements of a year-long secret bid to resume peace negotiations.

Sources close to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that he was unable to conceal his disappointment and surprise at the news of renewed peace talks.

Iran and Syria are major supporters of Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based guerilla group which fought Israel in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.