Iran’s newly appointed foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, arrived in Damascus on Sunday for meetings with top Syrian officials, telling reporters he was in the country to discuss “ways to confront economic terrorism,” referring to international sanctions against the two countries.
Iran and Syria vowed to take “mighty steps” to confront U.S. sanctions, Amir-Abdollahian said, stating their relations will strengthen under Iran’s new leadership.
According to SANA, Tehran’s top diplomat discussed “the latest regional development and bilateral relations” in his meetings with Syrian officials.
Iran has been one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s strongest backers, sending thousands of fighters from around the region to help his troops in Syria’s 10-year conflict that has killed half a million and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.
- Attacking Israel, Hezbollah knows Iran's new president has its back
- Iranian oil shipment to Lebanon poses new challenge for Israel
- Hezbollah agrees to third shipment of Iranian fuel to Lebanon
With the help of Russia and Iran, Syrian government forces now control much of Syria. But the country has been suffering for years under American and European Union sanctions.
U.S. Treasury sanctions have targeted a network that spans Syria, Iran and Russia, and which is responsible for shipping oil to the Syrian government.
American sanctions were imposed on Tehran after former President Donald Trump pulled America out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in 2018.
The sanctions have caused severe fuel shortages in Syria, which has been relying mostly on Iranian oil shipments that have been subjected to mysterious attacks over the past two years. Syria has blamed Israel for the attacks.
The day before, Amir-Abdollahian represented Iran at a conference hosted by Iraq aimed at easing Mideast tensions and emphasizing the Arab country’s new role as mediator.
Also in attendance was his Saudi Arabian counterpart, though the rivalry between both countries over regional supremacy has often played out to deadly consequences in Iraq and other countries across the region, including Yemen and Lebanon.
The hardline-dominated Iranian parliament approved anti-Western Amir-Abdollahian’s nomination by President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday.
Amir-Abdollahian is believed to have close ties with Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement and other Iranian proxies around the Middle East.
A former ambassador to Bahrain, Amir-Abdollahian was deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs between 2011 and 2016. He was deputy chief of mission at Iran's embassy in Baghdad from 1997-2001.
Reuters contributed to this report.