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Iran, Venezuela look to ‘deepen’ ties

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (Wolfgang Kumm/DPA/Abaca Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has arrived in Venezuela at the start of a Latin American tour that will also take him to Cuba and Bolivia.

“Every high-level visit deepens our strategic alliance, our brotherhood,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted on November 4 after welcoming his Iranian counterpart upon his arrival in the South American country.

“Venezuela and Iran have shown solidarity and courage in the face of aggressions,” Arreaza added, in an apparent reference to U.S. sanctions against both countries.

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The sides will discuss ways to “deepen strategic relations of bilateral cooperation” during Zarif’s visit, according to the Venezuelan news agency AVN.

Tehran has become a crucial ally for Caracas as Washington tightens sanctions meant to force Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power.

Juan Guaido was recognized by the United States and other Western countries as the legitimate leader of Venezuela in January 2019 after what most consider a sham election that gave Maduro a new term.

In recent months, Iran has supplied Caracas with humanitarian aid and fuel while Venezuela’s own oil production has plummeted.

Zarif will also travel to Bolivia to attend the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect Luis Arce, and travel to Cuba, according to Iranian and Venezuelan media.

In August, the United States said it had seized four tankers en route from Iran to Venezuela, and that their cargo was linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced the sale of the seized shipments and said that the proceeds would go to a special fund for victims of state-sponsored terrorism.