ISIL leader in Deir Az Zor and group’s ‘minister of war’ among 40 fighters killed in air strike, defence ministry says.
The government of Syria has signed an agreement with Iran to repair parts of the war-torn country’s power grid, state media said, in an early sign of the major role Tehran is expected to play in Syria’s reconstruction.
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday during a visit by Syria’s electricity minister to Tehran, including building a power plant in the coastal province of Latakia with a capacity of 540 megawatts, Syrian state news agency SANA said.
During the more than six years of fighting, Syria’s infrastructure has taken a tremendous hit. Electricity generation dropped by more than half from 2010 to 2014, according to the latest figures available from the OECD’s International Energy Agency monitoring group.
Tuesday’s agreement involves restoring the main control centre of Syria’s electricity grid in the capital, Damascus, SANA said.
“The Syrian government … is working relentlessly to restore the power system,” SANA quoted Syrian Electricity Minister Mohammad Zuhair Kharboutli as saying.
“Iranian companies will have a role in rebuilding Syria.”
The deal also includes rehabilitating a 90-megawatt power station in Deir Az Zor province, where the Syrian army and allied forces have made swift advances against ISIL in recent days.
A contract was also signed for an Iranian company to supply power to the city of Aleppo, where the opposition-held eastern part of the city was retaken by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government in December of last year.
“We will stand by the Syrian people to rebuild this country … We will bring light to houses of the Syrian people,” Sattar Mahmoudi, Iran’s acting energy minister, said in a statement on the ministry’s website.
The deals will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars if finalised, and Tehran is also eager to expand its cooperation to construct water and sewage facilities in Syria, Mahmoudi said.
More than 1,000 soldiers deployed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to Syria have died on the front lines of the multi-sided conflict in recent years.
“Iran’s Revolutionary Guards saved the Assad regime from collapsing at a heavy price for Damascus, for now, they own Syria,” Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Reuters news agency.
“I expect these to be the first in a wave of tenders won by IRGC companies, which will have the best reconstruction projects to Iran,” he added.
Iranian firms are already involved in a series of electricity generation projects in Syria.
Iran also said in August that it had exported $58 million worth of goods to Syria in the first four months of this year, marking a 100 percent increase compared with the same period a year ago.
In January, Iran’s government and entities close to the IRGC signed major telecommunications and mining deals with Damascus.