Venezuelan president to visit Iran to further cooperation

Maduro says he has spoken twice with his Iranian counterpart Raisi, pair have agreed on new plans; looking at ties with Middle East, says Arab nations ‘love Venezuela’

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to journalist covering his vote in elections to choose members of the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 6, 2020. (Ariana Cubillos/AP)
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to journalist covering his vote in elections to choose members of the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 6, 2020. (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced Sunday that he will soon visit Iran at the invitation of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to work on furthering cooperation between their two countries.

The visit will come as part of Venezuela’s plan to revive ties with Arab countries in the coming year, he said.

“I am going to Teheran very soon, for a visit that President Raisi offered me, so that we meet in person, to hold conversations and sign new agreements,” Maduro said, he said in a Spanish-langauge interview with the Al Mayadeen broadcaster. The interview was also broadcast on Venezuelan state television.

He did not give a date for the visit.

The two presidents have held two telephone conversations during which they agreed on new plans, Maduro said, without elaborating.

The aim will be to “speed up processes of cooperation,” he said.

During the interview Maduro also heaped praise on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying he admires the head of state as “a man of great wisdom and great intelligence.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses during a joint session of lawmakers and cabinet members at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 1, 2021. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Speaking of planned efforts in 2022 to improve partnership with other countries in the broader Middle East, Maduro said, “They love us in the Arab world, I know that Arab governments and peoples love Venezuela.”

Venezuela is under stiff US sanctions that have impacted the country’s crude oil exports. The Trump administration shuttered the American embassy in Caracas in March 2019 after recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Ever since, relations between the two countries have grown steadily more hostile, with the US government imposing strict oil sanctions on the country and targeting top officials with criminal indictments, something Maduro has likened to a “soft coup.”

The US has also imposed sanctions on Iran in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear program and efforts to revive a 2015 pact with world powers. Negotiations are underway in Vienna to save the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has been unraveling since the US pulled out of the deal in 2018 and Iran responded by increasing it nuclear activities.

Earlier this year an Iranian destroyer and support vessel sailed into the Atlantic Ocean, with US media reports citing anonymous American officials as saying the ships were bound for Venezuela.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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