Iran opens ‘new page’ of economic activities with Syria
TEHRAN - Iran will build a mobile phone network and petrol terminal in Syria under deals signed in Tehran on Tuesday during a visit by Prime Minister Imad Khamis, Iranian media reported.
The five deals include a "licence for a mobile phone operator, the transfer of 5,000 hectares for the creation of a petrol terminal and 5,000 hectares for farmland" in Syria, according to the IRNA news agency.
Iran will also have the right to operate phosphate mines in Sharqiya, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of the jihadist-held ancient city of Palmyra, and to invest in an unnamed Syrian port.
Tehran is the chief backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, providing military advisers and coordinating thousands of "volunteer" fighters on the ground considered vital to last month's recapture of the rebel stronghold in Aleppo.
First vice-president, Eshagh Jahangiri, said Khamis's visit marked "a new page for economic activities between the two countries".
"The recent victories in Syria are due to the resistance of the people, the Syrian army... and the cooperation on the ground and politically between Iran and Syria," he said at a news conference with Khamis.
At a separate press conference later in the day, President Hassan Rouhani welcomed the fragile ceasefire in Syria.
"Iran wants the ceasefire to continue, that the negotiations continue, that the war against Daesh (the Islamic State group) and the Al-Nusra Front continues so that Syria achieves a stability and a peace so that it can hold a real election," said Rouhani.
Khamis, who arrived with a large business delegation, said the two countries were in "the same trench".
He was also due to meet Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, which oversees political and military cooperation with Russia and Syria.
Iran will take part in Syria peace talks alongside Russia and Turkey in the Kazakh capital Astana on January 23 aimed at building on a fragile ceasefire with rebel groups.
"There are negotiations between the government and the (rebel) groups present on the territory that could be serious," Rouhani said.
"Iran, Russia and Turkey have made a lot of effort to ensure these negotiations in Astana... these countries have influence and can make it work."