TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has welcomed the opening of new branches of Iran’s Islamic Azad University (IAU) in the Arab country, said Ali Akbar Velayati, who heads the Founding Council and Board of Trustees of the IAU.

In a meeting in Damascus on Tuesday, Velayati and Syrian Higher Education Minister Atef Naddaf discussed the launch of IAU, a major private university with hundreds of branches in Iran and abroad, in the Syrian cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia.

Velayati said the IAU has about 1.5 million students, adding that the university is ready to open a center for its regional activities in the “brother” country of Syria.

He further said the Syrian president has welcomed the development of closer scientific cooperation with Iran and the establishment of IAU branches in the Arab country.

Naddaf, for his part, welcomed closer relations with Iranian universities and said Syria is in need of scientific cooperation with Iran more than ever.

Velayati arrived in Syria on Tuesday for talks with the Arab country’s top officials to coordinate efforts in the fight against terrorism.

Apart from meetings with Syria’s president and prime minister, Velayati is going to attend a conference on Islamic unity and Palestine during his stay in Damascus.

Iran has remained an ally of Syria in the war against foreign-backed militancy since the start of civil war in the Arab country in 2011.

Iran’s timely support for both Syria and Iraq was instrumental in the two Arab countries’ victory over Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) and ending the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed caliphate in late 2017.