September 6, 2019
An agreement between an Iranian company backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Syrian state-owned telecommunications corporation to operate a third mobile operator in Syria has been recently confirmed.
The agreement will provide the acquisition of stakes from Syriatel and MTN, amid ongoing negotiations to finalize the terms of the contract and the distribution of shares among businessmen and official figures in Damascus and Tehran.
The announcement came days after the start of proceedings against Syriatel, of which Rami Makhlouf – the cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – is the main shareholder. News emerged about some of the company’s shares being transferred to the “Martyrs’ Fund” of the Syrian army.
Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis visited Tehran in early 2017, where he signed several MoUs concerning a third mobile operator to be run by an Iranian company, the investment in Syrian phosphate for 99 years, the acquisition of land for agricultural and industrial purposes, and the establishment of an oil port the Mediterranean, in addition to the signing of a new $1 billion credit line from Iran, part of which is used to finance the export of crude oil and petroleum products to Syria.
Moscow’s intervention and a quota dispute have prevented the implementation of these agreements over the past two years. The Russian side has acquired the phosphate project near Palmyra. Syria has one of the largest phosphate reserves in the world with 1.8 billion tons, most of which is located in the east, and part of which is exported to Iran.
With the decline of military operations near Damascus and southern Syria, Damascus and Tehran have given new impetus to their economic relations.
Earlier this year, Khamis and Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri presided over the joint committee’s meetings, where nine MoUs were signed in the fields of railways, building houses, investment, and “combating the financing of terrorism and money laundering, in addition to education and culture.”