Alwaght- Iran’s Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian headed to Syria and Lebanon for talks after a period of active diplomatic interactions on international stage especially with Africa and finalizing Iran’s BRICS accession.
The main driver for the FM’s Syria and Lebanon visit was the effort to strengthen relations for the best of bilateral interests and also Tehran’s expression of support to security and prosperity of the two countries and the readiness to play a constructive role to this end.
Iran’s facilitating role in Syrian-Arab relations
The first destination of Amir-Abdollahian and his accompanying delegation was Syria, during which he emphasized on the follow-up of the economic cooperation agreements between the two countries in the post-crisis era.
In a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart, Amir-Abdollahian said that following up the agreements between the two countries was one of the aims of the two-day visit.
Earlier in May, heading a major economic delegation, Iranian President Seyyed Ibrahim Raisi visited Syria at the invitation of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The visit was the first to an Iranian president to Syria after 13 years and captivated focus of regional and international media. During the visit, the two countries signed various agreements in energy, engineering, housing, transportation, free trade zones, private sector, IT and technology, natural disaster response, and religious tourism, paving the way for an increase in economic ties in the near future and playing an important role in relieving Syrian living conditions problems.
In his X account, Iran’s Ambassador to Syria Hussein Akbari posted: “The continuous follow-up of the agreements made between the Islamic President of Iran and the Arab Republic of Syria at the highest levels of the two countries shows the determination of both sides to move forward and reach the desired point in the cooperation between the two countries.”
While official statistics indicate that Iran’s non-oil exports to Damascus in last year amounted to 147,000 tons worth $244 million, the ambitious goal of the two countries to reach the annual trade volume of $20 billion in the near future requires continuous follow-up for implementation of the trade deals.
FM Faisal Mekdad of Syria described the economic and trade talks with his Iranian counterpart as important and welcomed the High Joint Commission’s scheduled summit.
Also, it seems that playing a role in improvement of relations between Syria and the Arab world is another goal of Amir-Abdollahian’s Syria visit.
In this regard, he said: “Given the new developments in the region and the new and positive page of relations that we are witnessing in the region, I recently visited Saudi Arabia and received positive signals and remarks from the Saudi Arabian authorities regarding Syria. Today we are in Damascus to discuss these issues and other bilateral, regional and international topics of interest.”
The FM’s highlight of Saudi Arabia visit and talks with the Saudi officials comes as Riyadh still refrains from naming an ambassador to Damascus and economic relations have not advanced as expected by Syria despite resumption of official diplomatic ties between the two sides. In recent weeks, these issues have been a topic of grievances by Syrian officials and media outlets.
It seems that during his talks with the Syrian officials, Amir-Abdollahian made an effort to build a bridge between Damascus and Riyadh to remove the probable obstacles.
Important cases in Lebanon visit
The short regional trip of the Iranian FM ended with visit to Lebanon, where many cases were on the agenda of the talks with the Lebanese officials.
The visit to Lebanon comes on the first anniversary of the political stalemate in Lebanon initiated by the end of term of President Michel Aoun as president and the failure of the political sides to name a new president. As a result, the political process is left in a state of uncertainty and a new cabinet is far from coming to existence, leaving the country run by a caretaker government.
To be elected as a president in Lebanon, a candidate should in the first round win majority of the two-thirds or in the second or next rounds win outright majority. This is while currently no political bloc has a majority and they have failed to agree on an independent candidate.
According to the quota-based constitution of Lebanon, the president should be a Christian, and currently there are two candidates, Suleiman Frangieh and Jihad Azour, for the post.
Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Lebanese Forces, Progressive Socialist Party, and number of independents back Azour, the former finance minister, but Hezbollah and allied Amal Movement favor Frangieh.
After his arrival in Beirut, Amir-Abdollahian, referring to the goals of his trip to Lebanon, told reporters in a press conference that the Islamic Republic of Iran wants nothing but goodness, stability, and peace for Lebanon.
“In a conversation with high-ranking Lebanese officials, I will invite them to elect a president as soon as possible through understanding and dialogue,”he said.
Stressing that it is the people and leaders of Lebanon who should elect a president, the FM maintained: “We believe that the leaders and people of Lebanon have the necessary tact to make a political decision to elect a president and conclude this political process, and we always ask God Almighty for the best for the government, the nation, the army and the resistance of Lebanon.”
In his April visit to Lebanon, Amir-Abdollahian had said that Iran will always welcome election of a new president in this republic and “any prominent figure that is agreed upon by the Lebanese factions will be welcomed by us.”
Like his visit to Syria, in Lebanon trip, the discussions with the Saudi officials could be tracked in the FM’s talks with the Lebanese leaders. Tehran and Riyadh, as two influential actors in Lebanon, seem to have made agreements to get the country out of the political dead end it is in, something indeed will be welcomed by the Lebanese.
Asking all regional and international actors to help Lebanon’s economy improve by engaging in business with Beirut, Amir-Abdollahian said: “In the discussions with the Saudi officials, we have heard positive and constructive statements from them regarding helping the situation in Lebanon. We invite all countries to help and cooperate economically with Lebanon, and the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to strongly support Lebanon.”
From another aspect, developing bilateral ties with Lebanon was also on the agenda of the Iranian delegation in Beirut.
The fifth visit to Lebanon of Amir-Abdollahian since he assumed the post about two years ago coincided with an important event in Lebanon: Start of drilling for gas in the Lebanese waters in Block 9 of disputed gas field with the Israeli regime and whose conclusion will be of great importance to the Lebanese people and officials. In recent years, Lebanon has been struggling with many financial and economic difficulties, and the country’s leaders are hopeful that energy production from their sources will help tackle the economic predicament.
This event is celebrated in Lebanon as Iran has advanced technology in oil and gas exploration and production and Iranian oil companies can take on their most prominent international rivals. Iranian domestic companies recently initiated gas production at South Pars 12 gas field in a triumph for the country, displaying their high capacities to the world. Lebanon can specially count on the Iranian potentials to join the oil and gas exploration process.
Earlier, in his Beirut visit, Iran’s FM had made a set of proposals for Iranian support in vital economic sectors and infrastructure, especially in energy sector, and voiced readiness of Iranian companies to build two power plants to Lebanon within maximum time span of 18 months.