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Iran, Syria Sign Deal On Military Cooperation

Syrian soldiers at the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights on July 26, 2018.

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

The "defense and technical agreement" provides for the continued "presence and participation" of Iran in Syria, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said in Damascus on August 27, according to the Tasnim news agency.

It also quoted Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayub as praising Tehran for supporting the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the seven-year Syrian conflict.

Hatami was on the second day of a two-day visit to Syria’s capital, during which he also held talks with Assad, Tasnim reported.

Iranian and Russian support for Assad throughout the war has helped turn the conflict in the Syrian leader’s favor.

Rebel forces have been routed in many parts of the country. Syrian pro-government forces are preparing to launch an assault on the northwestern province of Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold.

Israel and the United States, which supports rebels fighting against Assad’s government, have expressed concern over Iran's growing influence in Syria.

But Hatami told reporters in Damascus on August 26, "No third party can affect the presence of Iranian advisers in Syria."

The war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people and uprooted millions since it began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.

More than 1,000 Iranians, including senior members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), have been killed in the conflict since 2012, according to Reuters.

UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva between Syrian government delegates and the opposition broke up earlier this year without significant progress.

Meanwhile, Iran, Russia, and Turkey have sponsored a series of negotiations on the Syrian conflict in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, and cooperated to create "de-escalation zones" to reduce fighting while backing separate sides.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to Iran on September 7, his office said on August 27, on a visit expected to include a summit with Russian and Iranian counterparts on Syria.

The tripartite meeting will take place in the northern Iranian city of Tabriz on September 7, according to Turkish state television.

The Kremlin has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin may take part in talks with Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rohani at the beginning of September.

The last such meeting between the three leaders took place in Ankara in April.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and Tasmin
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