Iranian FM Zarif in Venezuela for Talks

Iranian FM Zarif in Venezuela for Talks

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Venezuela for high-level talks at the beginning of a Latin America tour that will also take him to Cuba and Bolivia.

Zarif was welcomed by his Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza, upon his arrival in Caracas on Wednesday.

Arreaza tweeted that the pair had "an intense program" to get through, and that "every high-level visit deepens our strategic alliance, our brotherhood.”

"Venezuela and Iran have shown solidarity and courage in the face of aggressions," he noted, in an apparent reference to draconian US sanctions against both nations.

The two sides will exchange views on ways to "deepen strategic relations of bilateral cooperation,” Arreaza further said, according to the Venezuelan news agency AVN.

Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Zarif would travel to Venezuela and Cuba as well as Bolivia, where he would attend the inauguration of president-elect Luis Arce.

He said Cuba and Venezuela were among the political partners of the Islamic Republic in Latin America.

The two countries, he added, have been the target of US pressure and interference for countering Washington’s destructive policies.

Venezuela is one of the main destinations for the export of Iran’s technical and engineering services, Khatibzadeh said, hailing bilateral cooperation in energy sector and commercial ties, citing the opening of the first Iranian chain store in Caracas by the private sector.

In May, Iran sent five tankers loaded with 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and alkylate to Venezuela to help jump start the oil refineries in the South American state amid a fuel crisis.

The following month, Iran sent a cargo ship carrying foodstuff for the store.

In September, an Iranian ship discharged 2.1 million barrels of Iranian condensate to be used as diluent for Venezuela’s extra heavy oil production.

The shipments drew the ire of US President Donald Trump's administration, which has unleashed a so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran in May 2018 after leaving a 2015 nuclear agreement.

Following its withdrawal, Washington targeted the Iranian nation with the “toughest ever” economic sanctions.

Under Trump, the US also ramped up an embargo on Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, his inner circle and the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

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