Syria and Iran sign ‘strategic’ economic agreement

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis (R) and Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri (C) attend a signing of an agreement event in the capital Damascus on January 28, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 29 January 2019

Syria and Iran sign ‘strategic’ economic agreement

  • Iran will stand “alongside Syria during the next phase that will be marked by reconstruction,” Jahangiri promised

DAMASCUS: Syria and Iran signed 11 agreements and memoranda of understanding late Monday, including a “long-term strategic economic cooperation” deal aimed at strengthening cooperation between Damascus and one of its key allies in the civil war that has torn the country apart.
The agreements covered a range of fields including economy, culture, education, infrastructure, investment and housing, the official Sana news agency reported.
They were signed during a visit to Damascus by Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.
Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis said it was “a message to the world on the reality of Syrian-Iranian cooperation,” citing “legal and administrative facilities” to benefit Iranian companies wishing to invest in Syria and contribute “effectively to reconstruction.”
The agreements included two memos of understanding between the railway authorities of the two countries as well as between their respective investment promotion authorities.
In relation to infrastructure, there was also rehabilitation of the ports of Tartus and Latakia as well as construction of a 540 megawatt energy plant, according to Khamis.
In addition there were “dozens of projects in the oil sector and agriculture,” he added.
The civil war has taken an enormous toll on the Syrian economy and infrastructure, with the cost of war-related destruction estimated by the UN at about $400 billion.
Iran will stand “alongside Syria during the next phase that will be marked by reconstruction,” Jahangiri promised.
Iran and Syria had already signed a military cooperation agreement in August while Tehran has supported Damascus economically during the conflict through oil deliveries and several lines of credit.
The new agreements come against the backdrop of fresh US sanctions against Iran, while Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and several Syrian businesspeople and companies are already on US and European blacklists.
They also come as Israel has repeatedly pledged to keep arch-foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where the war has already claimed more than 360,000 lives and displaced several million people.


Coronavirus claims over 20,000 lives across Mideast, half in Iran

Updated 21 min 50 sec ago

Coronavirus claims over 20,000 lives across Mideast, half in Iran

  • 907,736 reported infections and 20,005 deaths from the COVID-19
  • Iran has been struggling to contain the outbreak since announcing its first cases

PARIS: The novel coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 20,000 people across the Middle East, half of them in Iran, according to an AFP tally at 1000 GMT Sunday based on official tolls.
But despite having 907,736 reported infections and 20,005 deaths from the COVID-19 illness, the Middle East has been relatively lightly hit by the virus which has killed over half a million people across the globe.
Iran, which has been struggling to contain the outbreak since announcing its first cases in February, has reported more than 12,829 deaths and 257,303 infections, according to Sunday’s official figures.
With a population of more than 80 million, Iran is the 9th worst-affected country in the world and has seen the region’s deadliest outbreak.
Infections in the Islamic republic have been on the rise since early May, prompting authorities to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces.
On Sunday the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the resurgence “truly tragic” and urged all citizens to help rein it in.
In the region covered by Iran in the north and east, Israel in the west and Yemen in the south, the other worst-hit countries are Iraq and neighboring Kuwait, as well as Saudi Arabia and war-torn Yemen.
Iraq is the second-most affected nation in the Middle East with 3,055 deaths and 75,194 infections, followed by Saudi Arabia with 2,181 deaths and 229,480 infections.
Yemen, one of the world’s poorest nations, has recorded 464 deaths and 1,380 infections, while Kuwait has confirmed 386 deaths and 54,058 infections.
Iran also ranks as the region’s worst-affect country on a per-capita basis, with 153 deaths per million — 25th worldwide — followed by Kuwait with 90 deaths per million and Saudi Arabia with 63.
According to the AFP tally, the average number of deaths in the region is 43 per million inhabitants, against a global average of around 70.
The Middle East represents around 3.5 percent of all global deaths, far behind Europe (one third), North America (one quarter) and Latin America and the Caribbean (one quarter).