At a joint news conference with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Tuesday, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said the two countries have the capacity to expand their bilateral trade volume to $20 billion.
Raisi arrived in the Venezuelan capital early on Tuesday on the first leg of his three-nation tour of Latin America, which will also take him to Cuba and Nicaragua.
He said Iran and Venezuela can expand their bilateral trade volume in two phases, $10 billion in the first phase, and then expanding it to $20 billion, from around $3 billion at the moment.
“The relationship between Iran and Venezuela is not a normal diplomatic relationship, but a strategic relationship between two countries that have common interests, common visions, and common enemies,” Raisi told a joint news conference alongside Maduro.
Iran’s president said the country has proved its friendship with the Latin American country “in difficult days” over the years, describing the bilateral relations as “strategic.”
Referring to the signing of 19 cooperation agreements, Raisi said the two countries are determined to expand their bilateral economic relations.
He further called for activating shipping lines between Iran and Venezuela and urged the strengthening of cooperation between the two sides in industry, mining, energy, and banking sectors.
Raisi noted that despite measures taken by the two countries to develop their relations, there is still untapped potential for the expansion of ties between them.
Both Iran and Venezuela have been reeling under US sanctions for years, and have taken a series of measures in recent years to expand ties by circumventing sanctions.
“I offer my respect to the wise, noble, and valuable people of Venezuela, who are resisting cruel imperialism. We are friends in difficult times,” said Raisi.
He added that Tehran and Caracas have “common enemies,” in a veiled reference to the US.
Maduro, for his part, said the two countries stand “on the right side of history” and will be “invincible,” in reference to their resistance to US sanctions.
“After imperial aggressions, after more than 900 criminal sanctions, here is Venezuela standing holding out its hand to Iran,” the Venezuelan president said in his remarks.
He also referred to the recent revelation by former US President Donald Trump that toward the end of Trump’s tenure, Venezuela was “about to collapse” and that the US “would have taken over it, we would have kept all that oil.”
“Former President of the United States has confessed to a crime against humanity, and against the noble and peaceful people of Venezuela. He declared that the objective of his government and of the aggression and the sanctions against Venezuela was to make Venezuelan society collapse so that the imperialist power of the United States would seize Venezuelan oil and wealth,” Maduro said, in reaction to Trump’s remarks that created a major controversy.
Iran is one of Venezuela’s main allies in the world, and the two leaders have so far met on six occasions.
In 2022, Maduro visited Iran, where he signed a 20-year pact to cooperate in the oil, petrochemicals, and defense sectors.
The two presidents on Tuesday said the two countries have reached agreements in many fields, including economy, trade, science, technology, energy, and culture, and that they are determined to deepen and strengthen relations even further.
“Iran is playing a stellar role as one of the most important emerging powers in the new world,” Maduro noted.
He also said investments in the fields of energy, oil, gas, gold, technology, and health between the two countries should be increased.
During his visit, Raisi was also awarded Venezuela’s National Medal of Honor by Maduro.