Tehran, Iran – Iran and Venezuela signed a 20-year “cooperation road map” during a state visit by President Nicolas Maduro to Tehran as the two oil-rich countries reeling under US sanctions pledged to boost bilateral ties.
The Venezuelan president met his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, a day after arriving in the Iranian capital with a high-level political and economic delegation on a two-day trip.
In a joint conference following their meeting, the two hailed raising bilateral relations to the “strategic” level and agreed both countries can boost ties in trade in addition to the energy, science and technology, agriculture and tourism sectors.
The cooperation roadmap, the exact details of which have been kept under wraps, was signed by the foreign ministers of the two nations in the presence of their respective presidents.
The delegations from both countries discussed details of the future cooperation, as the leaders focused on issues of mutual cooperation on economic issues amid crippling economic crises because of sanctions.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy has always been to have relations with independent countries, and Venezuela showed that it has had incredible resistance against threats and sanctions by enemies and imperialism,” Raisi said, sitting next to Maduro.
Like Venezuela, he added, Iran has also faced sanctions by the US and others for decades, but has chosen to regard them as an opportunity to move the country forward.
Raisi said Iran has been successful in breaking the “maximum pressure” policy that Washington has embarked on since unilaterally abandoning Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.
Despite several rounds of talks, no breakthrough has been achieved to revive the landmark deal that would likely grant sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Raisi later on Saturday accompanied Maduro and his delegation to a meeting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei also praised closer ties between the two countries and efforts to counter the US, and he backed Venezuela’s support for Palestine.
“The successful experience of the two countries has shown that the only way to counter the heavy pressures and hybrid war of the US is to stand up against it and resist,” he was quoted as telling Maduro by his website.
Direct flight between Tehran and Caracas
Maduro also praised Venezuela’s “resistance against sanctions and imperialism” since 2017, and said his country aims to use Iran’s experiences in this area and will center future cooperation on science and technology.
The Venezuelan president hailed Iran’s “miracles” in developing its agriculture sector amid historic droughts, and said the two countries aimed to develop ties in this sector.
A direct flight between Tehran and Caracas will be established from July 18, Maduro announced, expressing hope it will help more Iranians consider Venezuelan cities and natural landmarks as tourist destinations.
“I believe that our future will be one of the pleasing and solid friendships,” he said. “The future of the world is one of equality and justice and standing up against imperialism. We must build this future together.”
In an interview with state-run Spanish-language HispanTV on Friday, Maduro had also praised Iran’s help with its dilapidated oil industry.
Raisi, who had sent his petroleum minister Javad Owji to meet with Maduro earlier this year, on Saturday promised cooperation will continue.
Following the meetings, Iran’s state television said Raisi and Maduro attended a ceremony via video link, during which Iran officially delivered the second of four Aframax oil tankers ordered by Venezuela.
Built by a state company, the Aframax is reportedly 250 meters long and can carry up to 800,000 barrels of oil.
‘Standing up to American hegemony’
Since 2020, Iran has helped repair and overhaul a number of Venezuelan refineries that have suffered from decades of mismanagement, low investments and sanctions.
The countries also signed an oil swap agreement last year, based on which Iran sent shipments of its heavy crude to help Venezuela ramp up the production of oil and gas to avoid fuel crises that it has seen in recent years.
Speaking from Tehran, Hamed Mousavi, professor of political science at the University of Tehran, said both presidents tried to project an image of “standing up to American hegemony”.
“Such a strategy could be successful if other bigger countries such as China and Russia join in,” he told Al Jazeera.
Highlighting that Iran and Venezuela’s joint delegation meeting was mostly focused on economic aspects, Mousavi said the two countries would benefit from economic cooperation regardless as they remain under stringent US sanctions.
Iran signed a 25-year cooperation accord with China last year, which it said “entered the implementation stage” earlier this year.
It is also negotiating the renewal of a 20-year cooperation accord with Russia, which was discussed during Raisi’s trip to Moscow in January.