Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Faced with mounting pressure from the U.S. and Israel, Iran and Syria are deepening their energy ties as part of their expanding relationship.

Energy Ministers of the two countries have signed an interim agreement which would allow Iran to export three billion cubic metres of gas to Syria annually. Iran’s caretaker Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari told Iranian state television that the deal would be worth $1 billion annually. The export of Iranian gas to Syria is set to begin in 2009.

Indirect partner

Significantly, Iran and Syria plan to draw Turkey as their indirect partner in this venture. Gas supplies to Syria will transit through Turkey before reaching Syria. Iran already exports substantial volumes of gas to Turkey along a pipeline that links the Iranian northern city of Tabriz with Ankara.

Despite American opposition, Iran and Turkey are set to expand energy ties soon. The two have signed an agreement in August that would allow Iran to export gas not only to Turkey, but further ahead to Europe.

The two Ministers during their meeting also discussed establishing in Syria, an oil refinery that would have a refining capacity of 140,000 barrels a day. Iran’s Latin American ally, Venezuela, is likely to become a partner in this venture.