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Iran, Syria sign defense, reconstruction deal

Despite Israeli efforts to keep Tehran out of Syria, Assad regime signs deal allowing for continued ‘presence and participation’ of Iran in the war-torn country

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian president Bashar Assad, right, meets with Iran's Defense minister Amir Hatami, in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. Iran has provided key support to Assad in the seven-year civil war, sending thousands of military advisers and allied militiamen to bolster his forces. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian president Bashar Assad, right, meets with Iran's Defense minister Amir Hatami, in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. Iran has provided key support to Assad in the seven-year civil war, sending thousands of military advisers and allied militiamen to bolster his forces. (SANA via AP)

The defense ministers of Iran and Syria have signed an agreement on military cooperation and reconstruction in the war-torn country, Iranian media reported on Monday.

“Syria is passing through the crisis stage and entering the reconstruction phase,” said Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami, according to the Tasnim news agency.

Hatami is on the second day of a two-day visit to Damascus, during which he held “detailed negotiations” with his counterpart Ali Abdullah Ayoub and Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to Tasnim.

The “defense and technical agreement” provides for the continued “presence and participation” of Iran in Syria, added Hatami.

Tehran has provided steady political, financial, and military backing to Assad as he has fought back a seven-year uprising.

In an interview Monday night with the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen television channel, Hatami said the agreement included the rehabilitation of Syria’s defense industry and assured Iran would provide “good service”.

“With this accord, we have paved the way for a reconstruction of the Syrian military industries,” he said.

“The most important element of the deal is the rebuilding of the Syrian armed forces and defense industries so that they can regain their full capacity.”

On Tuesday last week, Iran unveiled its first domestic fighter jet, just days after releasing a next generation short-range ballistic missile.

Since Russia military intervened on Assad’s behalf in 2015, the regime has regained much of the territory lost to rebels and jihadists in the early years of the war.

Syria’s war has left more than 350,000 people dead and displaced millions since it broke out with the brutal repression of an initially peaceful uprising in 2011.

Israel has vowed not to let Iran maintain a presence in Syria and carried out dozens of strikes in the country to stop Iran sending advanced weaponry to Hezbollah. Israel has also pushed the US and Russia to keep Iran out of Syria.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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