Iran’s FM in Syria to discuss Ukraine war, ties with Arabs

Damascus: The foreign ministers of Iran and Syria, two allies of Russia, will here on Wednesday discuss the ongoing war in Ukraine and other developments, Syria’s foreign minister said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad spoke to reporters at Damascus airport shortly after his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived for talks with top Syrian officials.

Iran is a strong ally of President Bashar Assad and has sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters from around the region to bolster Syrian government forces against opponents in the 11-year Syrian conflict that has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

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Russia has also supported Assad militarily, turning the tide of the war in his favour.

We will discuss the huge developments today after Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, Mekdad said, adding that the two allies will also discuss “our mutual stances toward these developments.

During his visit, Amir-Abdollahian is also likely to discuss the latest developments in Iran’s negotiations to restore Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, Assad’s visit to the United Arab Emirates last week, which marked his first to an Arab country since the Syria war broke out, and meetings of the constitutional committee in Geneva between the Syrian government and opposition.

Speaking in Farsi, Amir-Abdollahian said strategic relations between Iran and Syria were at their best.

He later made a rare comment in Arabic, saying: We are in the same trench, and we support Syria’s leadership, government and people.

Like Iran, Russia is a strong ally of Syria and joined the war in 2015, which helped Assad’s forces regain control of much of the country.

Russia has hundreds of troops deployed in Syria and an air base on the Mediterranean coast.

Nuclear negotiations nearly reached completion earlier this month before Moscow demanded that its trade with Iran be exempted from Western sanctions over Ukraine, throwing the process into disarray.

Negotiators have yet to reconvene in the Austrian capital Vienna, and it is unclear exactly what hurdles lie ahead.

Amir-Abdollahian’s visit comes two weeks after two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were killed in an Israeli strike near the capital Damascus.

Days later Iran claimed responsibility for a missile barrage that struck near a sprawling US consulate complex in northern Iraq, saying it was retaliation for repeated Israeli strikes in Syria.

The Revolutionary Guard said it fired off 12 cruise missiles at what it described as a strategic centre of the Israeli spy agency Mossad, a claim denied by Iraqi officials.

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