Syria: Venezuela's Maduro to visit Assad to celebrate country's 'peace and stability'
During a ceremony honouring Syria's ambassador to Caracas, Khalil Bitar, for the end of his mission, Maduro said: “We praise the courage of Mr [Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad and salute his heroic stance as he has led a historic feat against the American terrorist aggression and its accomplices in the world."
Maduro said Assad, whose country has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011, had "achieved a victory thanks to the help of his allies such as Russia, China, Iran and other anti-imperialism nations and with moral and spiritual support from Venezuela".
Assad's forces have recaptured most of the country since 2015, with military aid from Moscow and fighters from the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.
The US has deployed forces and equipment in eastern and northeastern Syria, which it says are aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of the Islamic State (IS) group.
In September last year it was revealed that as many as 15,573 civilians have been killed by US air strikes in Syria.
Damascus argues the US deployment is unlawful and aims to plunder the country’s resources.
Syria's civil war has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and driven millions from their homes, since starting in 2011 with a brutal crackdown by Assad on anti-government protests. The vast majority of civilians have been killed by pro-Assad forces.
Countless independent reports featuring survivor testimonies have shown that thousands of people have been tortured and disappeared in the Syrian government's prisons since peaceful protests broke out in March 2011.
Meanwhile, the country's economy is struggling after the years of war, US sanctions, a lack of funds to finance imports and the Covid-19 pandemic.
'They love us in the Arab world'
Voicing his admiration of Syria’s history and the heroism of its people, Maduro also proposed an economy and investment exhibition to be held in Damascus with the participation of Venezuelan businesspeople.
He said he had ordered Venezuela's foreign minister to prepare for the event, intended to aid Syria's reconstruction, and invite businesspeople to attend.
'I know that Arab governments and peoples love Venezuela'
- Nicolas Maduro
The tightening of US sanctions has, since 2019, affected the South American state's ability to sell crude oil and import fuel, which has exacerbated gasoline shortages across the country.
Last month, Maduro said he would soon visit Iran to finalise new agreements on cooperation with Tehran, which has become Venezuela's top ally in boosting oil output amid US sanctions.
Maduro's government has received vital equipment for its oil industry from Iran, which in return has received crude and other primary resources from Caracas.
During the interview with satellite news broadcaster Al Mayadeen in Spanish, which was later broadcast on Venezuelan state television, Maduro said that in 2022 Venezuela would also look to reactivate means of cooperation with Arab countries.
"They love us in the Arab world, I know that Arab governments and peoples love Venezuela," he said.