Iran has pledged to contribute to the reconstruction of Syria by providing steady political, financial and military backing.
Iran’s Defence Minister Amir Hatami disclosed this when he met Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and the country’s defence minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, in Damascus.
Both countries agreed that Iran would have “presence, participation and assistance” in reconstruction “and no third party will be influential in this issue”.
“Syria is at a very, very important juncture. It is passing through the critical stage and it is entering the very important stage of reconstruction,” said Hatami, in comments carried by Iranian state broadcaster IRIB.
Since it erupted in 2011, Syria’s war has cost it approximately $388bn, according to the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
Last month, President Assad said reconstruction was his “top priority” in Syria, where more than 350,000 people have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes.
World powers, who long called for Assad’s removal, insist reconstruction aid should only come with political transition, but fellow regime ally Russia is pressing them to provide support.
According to comments carried by the state media, Assad told Hatami that Damascus and Tehran should set “long-term cooperation plans”.
Minister Ayoub also championed the two countries’ special relationship, saying that “Syrian-Iranian relations are a model for bilateral ties between independent and sovereign nations”.
The two countries have had strong ties for years – Iran has dispatched military forces to Syria but insists they are advisors, not fighters.
Iran-backed armed groups, including the powerful Lebanese Hezbollah movement, have also backed Assad’s troops.