Syria's President Bashar Al Assad met with Iran's leaders in Tehran on Sunday, Iranian and Syrian media reported, marking his second trip to major wartime ally Iran since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011.
It said the leaders praised the strong ties between their nations and vowed to boost relations further. The Syrian president was reported to have left Tehran for Damascus later on Sunday.
“Everybody now looks at Syria as a power,” Mr Khamenei told Mr Al Assad in their meeting, according to Iran’s semi-official 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.”
Mr Al Assad, for his part, said that strong relations between Iran and Syria served as a bulwark against American and Israeli influence in the Middle East.
“America today is weaker than ever,” Syria's state news agency, Sana, quoted the president as saying. “We should continue this track,” he added, praising Iran’s help in Syria’s “fight against terrorism”.
In an apparent reference to a recent string of deadly attacks in Israel by Palestinian assailants, Mr Al Assad also said that the Palestinian cause has again captured the world’s attention “because of the sacrifices of the Palestinian resistance”.
Mr Al Assad has rarely travelled abroad since his government’s crackdown on Syria’s civil unrest in 2011 led to a devastating civil war and made him a global pariah. He visited Russia, his other major ally in the civil war along with Iran, in September last year.
Tehran has given the Syrian government billions of dollars in aid and sent Iran-backed fighters to battle alongside his forces — assistance that, along with Russian air power, has helped turn the tide in Mr Al Assad’s favour.
Sunday's visit was Mr Al Assad’s first trip to the Iranian capital in over two years. The visit was not announced beforehand.
Police were out in force at major thoroughfares and intersections in Tehran on Sunday.
With reporting from Associated Press.