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Iran Says It Has Reached 'Important' Economic Deals With Syria

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri arrives at Damascus international airport in Damascus, January 28, 2019

Iran and Syria say they have struck economic and trade deals on Monday, as Tehran widens its role there after helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reclaim most of his country.

Iran has reached "very important agreements on banking cooperation" with Syria, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said in the Syrian capital Damascus.

Iran will also help repair power stations across Syria and set up a new plant in the coastal province of Latakia, he added.

However, it is not clear if Syria will pay Iran for its reconstruction work or Tehran has to bear some of the costs. Syria currently has little income to repay Iran in hard currency.

During Syria's eight-year conflict, Tehran has dispatched forces and allied Shi'ite militias, including Hezbollah, to provide Damascus with vital military support. Experts say Tehran is now looking to reap a financial dividend.

Shunned by Western powers, the Syrian government has looked to friendly states such as Iran, Russia and China to play a major role in rebuilding the country.

But repeated protests in Iran last year have shown that many ordinary Iranians resent the expenditure of blood and treasure in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Iran itself is suffering from acute economic crisis partly due to biting U.S. sanctions.

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis said Syria and Iran signed a "unique" agreement on Monday for long-term economic cooperation which includes industry, trade, and agriculture.

The two countries signed several memorandums of understanding during Jahangiri's visit to Damascus which Khamis described as "historic". Officials said they covered education, housing, public works, railways, investment, and other fields, without providing further detail.

Reporting by Reuters