TEHRAN, Iran — Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Iranian leaders in Tehran on Sunday, Iranian state-linked media reported, marking his second trip to major wartime ally Iran since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011.
Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported that Assad met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi earlier in the day. It said the leaders praised the strong ties between their nations and vowed to boost relations further. Assad was reported to have left Tehran for Damascus later on Sunday.
“Everybody now looks at Syria as a power,” Khamenei told Assad in the meeting, according to Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the country’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. ”The respect and credibility of Syria is now much more than before.”
Assad, for his part, said that strong relations between Iran and Syria served as a bulwark against Israel’s influence in the Middle East.
“Strategic relations between Iran and Syria is caused by the lack of domination of the Zionist regime in the region,” Assad was quoted as saying by Nour News.
Iranian media published photos of Assad shaking hands warmly with Khamenei and grinning beside Raisi.
Assad has rarely traveled abroad since his crackdown on Syria’s civil unrest in 2011 led to a devastating civil war and made him a global pariah.
He has visited key patrons Russia and Iran, and made his first trip to the United Arab Emirates since the conflict earlier this year — the clearest signal yet that the Arab world is willing to re-engage with Syria’s once widely shunned president.
The Tehran visit on Sunday marked Assad’s first trip to the Iranian capital in over two years. The visit was not announced beforehand.