Syrian President Bashar Assad praised relations between his country and Iran on Wednesday after holding landmark talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Khatami, reported Iran's News Agency (IRNA).
"Relations between our two countries are excellent," Assad was quoted as saying by local radio after he met Khatami.
Assad, who took power in July last year, said he was "happy to make Iran my first trip to a non-Arab country."
Khatami said "Iranian-Syrian relations have always been appreciated by the two peoples," adding that "it is on that basis that relations between Tehran and Damascus, have over different stages developed and deepened."
Assad began an official visit to Tehran on Wednesday aimed at "strengthening the specific and strategic friendship" between the two countries, said the agency.
The Syrian ambassador to Tehran, Ahmad Hassan, described the visit, which ends on Thursday and will include a meeting with the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as "exclusively political," according to IRNA.
Iran, which strongly opposes the Middle East peace process, has refrained from directly criticizing Damascus for its on-again, off-again negotiations with the Jewish state, according to AFP.
Arab diplomatic sources said Assad, who was in the United Arab Emirates Sunday, could also try to mediate a long-running dispute between Abu Dhabi and Tehran over three Gulf islands claimed by both, said IRNA, but the Tehran Times newspaper quoted Syrian official on Tuesday as saying that the Syrian President's visit is not aimed at solving the dispute -- Albawaba.com
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