Iran's Raisi to visit Damascus on Wednesday, in first since Syria war

According to IRNA, Raisi will lead a "high economic-political delegation" in his two-day trip at the official invitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during an open session of parliament, April 30, 2023. (Photo: Vahid Salemi/ AP)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during an open session of parliament, April 30, 2023. (Photo: Vahid Salemi/ AP)

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi will travel to Damascus on Wednesday, Iranian state media reported, touting a "very important" two-day visit against the backdrop of increased regional engagement with the Syrian regime.

"Dr Raisi's trip to Damascus next Wednesday is a very important trip due to the changes and developments that are taking place in the region," IRNA state news agency on Sunday quoted Iran's ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, as saying.

According to IRNA, Raisi will lead a "high economic-political delegation" in his two-day trip at the official invitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Tehran, a major ally of Assad, has supported his government during Syria's 12-year-old conflict, but no Iranian president has visited there since the war started in 2011.

The visit comes weeks after a landmark rapprochement agreement between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, which has also underlined greater Arab willingness to re-engage with the once isolated Syrian government.

"This trip will not only be beneficial for Tehran and Damascus, but it is also a very good event that other countries in the region can also take advantage of," Akbari was reported as saying.

There was no immediate official comment from the Syrian presidency.

The last Iranian president to visit the Syrian capital was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in September 2010.

Assad last visited Tehran in May, in his second reported trip to the Islamic republic since the war began.

Normalisation

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year hailed the relationship between Tehran and Damascus as "vital for both countries", saying it should be strengthened "as much as possible".

Tehran has given financial and military support to the Assad regime during the war. Iran says it has deployed forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus but only as advisers.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Friday the planned presidential visit signals the "multidimensional" cooperation between the two countries.

He noted his country had sent "military advisers" to help Assad's forces.

Alongside Russia, Iran has been a key ally in backing Assad as he clawed back his grip over the country during the conflict which has claimed the lives of some 500,000 people and displaced nearly half of Syria's population.

Swathes of territory still remain outside government control.

Jordan on Monday will host foreign ministers from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria for talks on Syria's war and ending Damascus's diplomatic isolation in the region, the foreign ministry in Amman said.

Assad is hoping full normalisation of ties with wealthy Gulf monarchies and other Arab states will help to finance the reconstruction of the country's war-ravaged infrastructure.