A top aide to Iran's supreme leader met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, Syrian state TV said, underlining firm Iranian support to Damascus as it faces mounting pressure from militants in Syria’s four-year-old civil war.
The meeting came as insurgents in Idlib province seized an army base from the Syrian military, expanding their grip in the northwest of the country, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a former foreign minister, was the most senior of three Iranian officials to travel to Damascus in less than a week.
Assad told Velayati that Iran was "a main support in our battle against terrorism" while Velayati reiterated Iran's continued backing for Assad, state news agency SANA said.
"Iran is determined to continue to stand by Syria and supporting it with whatever is needed to reinforce the resistance its people are showing in defending the country and fighting terrorism," SANA quoted Velayati as saying.
On Monday, Velayati visited Lebanon and talked with Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah. Velayati said his visit contributed to bolstering Lebanese-Iranian ties and gave him a chance to tackle the latest developments with senior officials in Beirut, Lebanese Al Manar TV reported.
Iran is Syria's most powerful regional ally and has become more influential on the Assad regime since the uprising in the country broke out in 2011.
Tehran has sent economic aid to prop up Syria’s struggling economy and Iranian military advisers are on the ground in addition to Iranian-allied Hezbollah militant forces from neighbouring Lebanon.
Iran ratchets up its support for Syria
On Monday Rustom Qasemi, head of an Iranian agency tasked with developing bilateral economic relations, visited Assad and said Tehran wanted to shore up Syria economically.
Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported on Tuesday that Qasemi's visit involved completing an agreement on a new Iranian credit line for Damascus.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Iran's parliamentary national security and foreign policy committee, also reiterated Iranian support for the Syrian government in a visit last week.
Last month Iran's foreign minister said Western and Arab demands for Assad's removal have fuelled years of unnecessary bloodshed as they have prevented negotiations on a political settlement.