Syrian President Bashar al-Assad signed an Iranian credit line during a surprise visit to Tehran on Sunday, Syrian local media reported.
The official Syrian News Agency (SANA) said that Assad had signed a “new phase” of the credit line, which included supplying Syria with energy and other basic materials to fill the shortage.
A credit line is a flexible loan from a bank or financial institution, with a defined amount of money that can be accessed as needed and then repaid immediately or over a specified period of time.
The first credit line opened by Iran to Syria was in 2013, with a ceiling amounting to $1 billion dollars with soft interests, followed by another worth $3 billion to finance the country’s needs of oil and its derivatives.
In 2015, a new credit line worth $1 billion was opened, the revenues of which were used by Damascus to finance the import of goods and merchandise and the implementation of projects.
Despite international sanctions imposed on the two countries, Iranian economic support for the regime in Syria included, in addition to credit lines, many economic cooperation agreements that covered vital areas, mainly electricity and railways.
Syria has been facing a severe fuel and energy crisis since mid-March, after the halting of Iranian oil deliveries and the decline of Russian support, with Moscow’s engagement in the Ukrainian war.
According to media sources, Damascus has asked several Arab countries to supply it with oil through the private sector, but the economic sanctions imposed on Syria prevented the urgent demand from being met.
Economic sources in Damascus said that there was no solution but to activate the Iranian-Syrian credit line and circumvent the Iranian conditions, which require cash payment for oil, due to the international sanctions on Iran and Syria.
Assad’s surprise visit to Iran culminated in the activation of the credit line and Iran’s announcement that it would maintain its support to the Syrian president. The latter met with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who underlined Tehran’s continued support to Syria, according to the sources.
Syria’s fuel and energy crisis led to a sharp rise in the prices of all commodities, necessities and foodstuffs, which reached more than 800 percent – the highest increase since 2013, according to a statement issued on Monday by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
“With years of conflict, a severe economic downturn, and food prices rising relentlessly since 2020, the Ukraine crisis is exacerbating what was already an alarming food security scenario in Syria. In March, food prices increased by 24 percent in just one month, following an 800 percent increase in the last two years. This has brought food prices to their highest level since 2013,” the WFP said.
It added: “Some 12 million people in Syria - more than half the population – currently face acute food insecurity. That is 51% more than in 2019 and an additional 1.9 million are at risk of sliding into hunger. With basic meals becoming a luxury for millions, nutrition is becoming a serious issue.”
WFP Executive Director David Beasley urged the international community to take immediate action in this regard.
“The international community must recognize that not taking action now will inevitably lead to a catastrophic future for Syrians. They deserve our immediate and unconditional support,” he stated.