BEIRUT: A senior Iranian official praised strong ties between Lebanon and Iran after a series of meetings with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other key officials in Beirut Friday.
A statement from the prime minister’s office reported that Hariri discussed bilateral relations with Ali Akbar Velayati, international affairs adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Ali Khamenei.
Velayati was accompanied to the meeting by Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali and an Iranian delegation.
Velayati said after the meeting: “We had a positive, constructive and practical meeting with Hariri, especially since Iranian-Lebanese relations are always constructive and good.”
He added that Iran was committed to supporting Lebanon, saying, “We listened to Prime Minister Hariri regarding the actions taken at the regional level and we support them for the interest of the region.”
He also paid tribute to Lebanon’s recent success in pushing extremist elements from the country’s northeastern border.
“We praised and congratulated Hariri and the [Lebanese] government and people for the recent victories against terrorists [and are] hoping for more success,” he said.
Velayati also lauded Syria and Iraq for making strides in fighting regional terrorism.
“[Any] victory against terrorists represents a victory for all of us, and what has been achieved by the Syrian government and people against terrorism is our victory and our success,” he said.
“We know that those terrorists are supported by the Zionists and the Americans. Thus, defeating them represents a defeat over the Zionist-American conspiracies against us,” he added.
Lebanon, Syria and Iraq’s collective efforts to combat terrorism represented a victory for “the axis of resistance” in the region, he said, and thus was a victory for Iran.
Following his meeting with Hariri, Velayati met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, followed by a separate meeting with Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. Velayati and Nasrallah discussed the latest political developments in the region, according to a Hezbollah statement.
In comments after his meeting with Berri, Velayati said the speaker was in agreement with Iran’s position that the Syrian city of Raqqa must be recaptured from the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces, according to a statement from the parliamentary media office.
The SDF recaptured Raqqa, the former de facto capital of Daesh (ISIS), last month.
Capping off a day of high-profile meetings, Velayati met with President Michel Aoun, who said after the meeting that Iran could play an effective role in the return of Syrian refugees to Syria, a statement from the presidential palace reported.
The pair reportedly discussed the current regional and international situation, and military and political developments in Syria and Iraq.
They also discussed ongoing contacts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
The president expressed his desire to “strengthen and develop” bilateral ties, and the pair discussed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s invitation for Aoun to visit Tehran.
Velayati praised efforts by Aoun and Hariri’s government to maintain stability in Lebanon, which he said helped “to achieve great victories against terrorist organizations in Lebanon,” the statement said.
“Lebanon is today considered one of the most secure and stable countries in the region. ... The victory achieved by Lebanon is the result of the tripartite equation of the [Lebanese] Army, the resistance [Hezbollah] and the people,” Velayati said after the meeting.
Velayati also met with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, after which he praised Lebanon’s foreign policy as taking a deliberate and active course since Bassil took the post, according to a statement from the foreign minister’s press office.