Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, will lead a high-ranking government delegation on a maiden three-nation tour of Latin America on Sunday as his administration seeks expansion of ties with “friendly countries”, Anadolu Agency reports.
Accompanied by ministers of foreign affairs, defence, oil, and health, Raisi will visit Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, the three nations that shared close ties with Iran and also are at odds with the US.
Hassan Rouhani was the last Iranian president to visit Venezuela and Cuba in 2016, while his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had visited Nicaragua in 2007.
According to Iran’s state media, the three-nation Latin American tour, the first since Raisi came to power in 2021, seeks expansion of Iran’s “economic, political and scientific cooperation” with the three nations sanctioned by the US.
Iran’s Defence Minister, Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, heads the Iran-Venezuela joint commission that indicates closer defence cooperation between Tehran and Caracas, will be on the agenda during this trip.
Iran and Venezuela are major oil producers and both are sanctioned by the US. However, Iran has managed to export crude to Caracas, circumventing sanctions, to help the Latin American country rebuild its energy infrastructure.
Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, during his visit to Tehran in June last year, signed a 20-year pact with Iran to expand cooperation in oil, petrochemicals and defence.
The three-nation tour, according to state media, is in line with the realisation of the Raisi administration’s policy to expand relations with “neighbours and friends”.There are reports about Iran and Venezuela eyeing new agreements in the areas of science and technology, industry, energy, oil, mines, automobiles, etc., to push the volume of their bilateral trade to $20 billion from $3.6 billion.
Iran’s relations with Cuba have also been steady, with Iranian officials often speaking about the “unlimited potential” to expand relations between the two countries.
Both countries have been under US sanctions and were, last week, listed among the countries by the Joe Biden administration that are “not cooperating fully” in the fight against terrorism.
Iran’s relations with Nicaragua have also hinged on their common interests, especially in resisting the US. Last month, The New York Times reported about the two sides holding discussions about bolstering their military cooperation in countering American influence in Latin America.
In August 2021, soon after taking office, Raisi spoke to his Nicaraguan counterpart, Daniel Ortega, and said the position of the two countries in “opposing the US hegemony is a valuable asset for interaction and convergence in the international arena.”In his meeting with the Venezuelan President’s Special Envoy in September last year, Raisi said his government’s policy is to “enhance the level of cooperation with Latin American countries”, pointing to “diverse capacities available”.