Iran and Syria sign deal for military cooperation

Damascus, Aug 27 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 8/27/2018 11:56:59 AM IST

 Iran and Syria agreed to expand defense and military cooperation, seemingly pushing back against US and Russian attempts to force Iranian troops out of the country, Iranian and Syrian state-run media reported Sunday.

According to the Iran’s Tasnim news agency, a defense agreement was signed after Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Defense Minister General Ali Abdullah Ayoub.

At the meeting, the Syrian president told the Iranian defense minister that cooperation between the two countries was important in light of the US pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran, imposing sanctions on Russia and “supporting terrorist organizations.”

Assad said this showed the “correctness of the policies pursued by the anti-terrorism axis and the importance of enhancing its strengths in the face of the subversive and destabilizing American approach in the world,” the Syrian official SANA news agency reported.

“Syria is moving out of crisis and entering the reconstruction phase,” said Hatami, also noting that the agreement will set the parameters for defense cooperation between the two countries.

Ayoub reportedly praised Iran for supporting Syria’s fight against rebel forces, according to Tasnim, also stating that “others” will not be allowed to damage the close relationship between the two nations.

Tehran has provided steady political, financial and military backing to Assad as he fought back a seven-year uprising. 

Israel has expressed concerns that forces loyal to Tehran are establishing a permanent presence in Syria that can be used to attack Israel, and has carried out dozens of airstrikes on Iranian army installations in the war-torn country in recent months.

As the civil war apparently draws to a close, officials in the US and reportedly Russia have looked to keep Iran’s military from entrenching itself in Syria, especially in the Golan Heights, at Israel’s urging.

Hatami arrived in Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit. According to Al-Watan, a Syrian daily close to the government, Hatami arrived in Damascus with an Iranian military delegation.

“Syria is in a very, very important juncture. It is passing through the critical stage and it is entering the very important stage of reconstruction,” he said, in comments carried by Iranian state broadcaster IRIB on Sunday.

He added it was agreed with Syria that Iran would have “presence, participation and assistance” in reconstruction “and no third party will be influential in this issue.”

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