World Bulletin / News Desk
Vietnam and Iran pledged Thursday to boost future trade to $2 billion, as Tehran seeks to jump-start its sputtering economy after crippling international sanctions were lifted this year.
Iran's moderate President Hassan Rouhani, in Vietnam on a three-country swing through Southeast Asia, has come under fire from conservative critics who say the nuclear deal signed with world powers has failed to bring a hoped-for economic boom.
Rouhani, who was elected on a promise to normalise relations with the outside world, praised ties with Vietnam Thursday after both sides signed several deals.
"The two sides agreed to increase bilateral trade turnover to $2 billion," the Iranian president told reporters in Hanoi.
Trade between Iran and Vietnam hit $350 million last year, according to Iran's official IRNA news agency.
"In economics, cooperation opportunities are still large... but the scale of cooperation and bilateral trade are still modest," Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang said.
The landmark nuclear deal -- which was reached in July 2015 and came into force in January -- saw sanctions against Iran lifted in exchange for curbing Tehran's nuclear programme, opening up one of the world's last untapped markets for global business.
Analysts say Hanoi and Tehran, which have both had strained relations with the United States in the past, are keen to bolster alliances beyond regional diplomatic spheres.
For Rouhani, the visit marks a "turning to the East, seeing what's there, caucusing, carving out some strong economic relations, which Iran needs," said Vanessa Newby, international relations research fellow at ANU's College of Asia-Pacific Affairs.
For mineral-rich Vietnam, Iran offers a key partnership in the oil and gas industry and for health and technology exchanges.
Closer ties to Iran also offers the communist nation a powerful alliance in the Middle East.
"Being under Iran's auspices is prestigious, they're an important country and because of the sanctions they've been punching way below their weight," Newby added.
"You can expect to see Iran really coming to the fore, they want a seat at the top table internationally and they've got the resources and frankly the workforce to get one."
Vietnam and Iran established diplomatic relations in 1973 and two Iranian presidents have previously visited Vietnam -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2012 and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in 1995.
After Vietnam, Rouhani heads to Malaysia and Thailand before returning home, Iranian state media said.
Foreign Ministry urges Israel not to change status quo of Al-Aqsa complex so it is accessible to all Muslims
President of the World Association of Muslim Scholars Yusuf al-Qaradavi stated that Jerusalem deals with not only the Palestinians but the entire Islamic ummah.
At least 5 Hezbollah, 17 opposition fighters reported killed
Israel criticized for ‘disproportionate’ force against Palestinians
12 militants’ vehicles destroyed, including four rigged with bombs
Israeli settlers killed in alleged stabbing attack in occupied West Bank, amid backdrop of Al-Aqsa turmoil
Qatari emir thanks Turkey for its support during crisis, says the plot against his country was pre-planned
Security measures by Israel trigger protests, with 3 Palestinians killed and nearly 400 injured
Sergey Lavrov says 'main parameters' on southern zone already agreed
UN spokesman says 1,140 children have been killed since 2015
The attack on Tuesday in the Mawza district of the southwestern province of Taez killed at least 20 people, including four children, according to residents.
Ayman Safadi urges international community to help ease tense situation
Kuwait also ordered the closure of the Iranian "military, cultural and trade" missions, said the government official, who asked not to be named.
Viral videos show Saudi prince physically and verbally assaulting at least 4 residents in capital Riyadh
Last week, Iraq formally declared victory over ISIL in Mosul