Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his visiting Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro have signed a 20-year cooperation pact to bolster ties in various fields.
The signing ceremony between the two allies, both subject to United States sanctions, was officially held in the presence of their high-ranking officials in the Iranian capital Tehran on Saturday, when most of the speeches focused on resisting US pressures.
The inking of the agreement "shows the determination of top officials from both sides to develop relations despite US and Western pressure," Raisi said during a joint news conference.” He added that "Venezuela has passed hard years but the people, officials and the president were determined to resist the sanctions. This is a good sign that proves to everyone that resistance will work and will force the enemy to retreat."
According to state media, the partnership agreement includes cooperation in science, technology, agriculture, oil and gas, petrochemicals, tourism as well as culture, but no tangible details were released about the accord.
Iran has also signed a 25-year cooperation agreement with China and a proposed 20-year deal with Russia exists, both lacking details and concrete plans. Partly because of this, some Iranian social media users go as far as claiming that the Islamic Republic is "selling out the country and its people" to China and Russia.
Despite Iran’s currency dropping to an all-time low against the US dollar on Saturday, as well as regular protests over rising prices, mismanagement and systematic corruption, the Iranian president said Washington's ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran has miserably failed, calling it a victory for Iran.
Maduro, in turn, said the pact covers different areas of cooperation including energy, oil, gas, refineries and petrochemicals as well as "working together on defense projects", adding that “We will use the historical experiences of Iran and put technology at the focal point of this cooperation agreement.” Maduro also talked about financing shared projects through the Iran-Venezuela Relations Development Bank.
“The youths of Iran and Venezuela must know that the world of the future is a world of equality and justice. We stand against imperialism, and together we must build the future. I tell the Iranian people to count on all our support and cooperation,” Maduro said.
In addition to the significant role of Iran’s Oil Minister Javad Owji in relations between Tehran and Caracas, Iran's Defense Minister Mohammad-Reza Gharaei Ashtiani is also said to have played an outsized role as he greeted Maduro at the airport and has been a constant presence in the engagements to date.
Iran and Venezuela have been slapped with sanctions by the US, which does not currently import oil from either nation, and has in recent years reimposed sanctions on Iranian state entities, including the national oil company NIOC, and in 2019 blacklisted Venezuela’s energy firm PDVSA.
The two countries strengthened their cooperation in 2020, with Venezuela importing condensate from Iran, key to thinning its extra-thick crude oil. Iran has also stepped in to help its South American ally with engineers, refined products and spare parts for its oil industry.
They also recently expanded a swap agreement signed last year to increase the supply of Iranian heavy crude to Venezuela's El Palito refinery and Paraguana Refining Center (CRP).
In early May, Owji traveled to Venezuela to visit oil facilities and sign contracts in the energy sector. Later in May, an oil tanker carrying about one million barrels of Iranian crude arrived in Venezuelan waters for delivery to the country's largest refinery.