Syrian President Bashar al-Assad signed an Iranian line of credit during a surprise visit to Tehran on Sunday, local Syrian media reported.
The official Syrian News Agency (SANA) said Assad had signed a “new phase” of the credit line, which included supplying Syria with energy and other basic materials to fill the shortage.
A line of credit is a flexible loan from a bank or financial institution, with a set amount of money that can be accessed as needed and then repaid immediately or over a specified period of time.
The first credit line opened by Iran to Syria dates back to 2013, with a cap of $1 billion with flexible interest, followed by another of $3 billion to finance the country’s oil needs and its derivatives.
In 2015, a new $1 billion line of credit was opened, the proceeds of which were used by Damascus to finance the import of goods and merchandise and the implementation of projects.
Despite the international sanctions imposed on both countries, Iranian economic support for the regime in Syria included, in addition to lines of credit, numerous economic cooperation agreements that covered vital areas, mainly electricity and railways.
Syria has been facing a serious fuel and energy crisis since mid-March, following the halt in Iranian oil deliveries and the decline of Russian support, with Moscow’s involvement in the Ukrainian war.
According to media reports, Damascus has asked several Arab countries to supply it with oil via the private sector, but the economic sanctions imposed on Syria have prevented the urgent demand from being met.
Economic sources in Damascus said there was no alternative but to activate the Iranian-Syrian credit line and circumvent Iranian conditions, which require cash payment for oil, due to sanctions international relations against Iran and Syria.
Assad’s surprise visit to Iran resulted in the activation of the credit line and Iran’s announcement that it would maintain its support for the Syrian president. The latter met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who stressed Tehran’s continued support for Syria, the sources said.
Syria’s fuel and energy crisis has led to a sharp rise in the prices of all commodities, necessities and foodstuffs, which have risen by more than 800% – the largest increase since 2013, according to a press release released on Monday by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). ).
“With years of conflict, a severe economic downturn and a relentless rise in food prices since 2020, the Ukraine crisis is exacerbating what was already an alarming food security scenario in Syria. In March, food prices rose 24% in just one month, following an 800% increase over the past two years. This pushed food prices to their highest level since 2013,” the WFP said.
He added: “Some 12 million people in Syria – more than half the population – are currently facing acute food insecurity. This is 51% more than in 2019 and 1.9 million more people are at risk of falling into hunger. As basic meals become a luxury for millions of people, nutrition becomes a serious issue.
WFP Executive Director David Beasley urged the international community to take immediate action in this regard.
“The international community must recognize that failure to act now will inevitably lead to a catastrophic future for Syrians. They deserve our immediate and unconditional support,” he said.