Iran’s parliament on Tuesday passed a bill for a free trade agreement with Syria in a show of support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime beset by protests and international pressure.
The bill provides for free trade between Iran and Syria within the next five years, according to Iranian state television.
Both countries are subject to international sanctions on their economies. The bill was introduced into parliament as an emergency procedure by Iran’s government.
Allaedin Boroujerdi said the proposed pact was “a firm response” to the United States and its allies “investing billions of dollars to change the political structure of the Syrian government.”
Syria is Iran’s main ally in the Middle East.
The co-chiefs of a bilateral economic cooperation commission — Iran’s urban development minister, Ali Nikzad, and Syria’s economy minister, Mohammed Nidal al-Shaar — met in Damascus on Tuesday, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported.
“Iran stands next to Syria and remains committed to developing bilateral relations,” the Iranian minister said upon arrival in Damascus, according to SANA.
Iranian officials, however, have recently criticised repression by Syrian security forces against pro-democracy protesters that has killed more than 5,000 people according to a UN estimate.