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DAMASCUS, October 22 (Itar-Tass) - Syria seeks to develop economic cooperation with Russia and expects from Russian companies their active participation in the country’s restoration, but they should act quicker in order not to lose their share in the development of the Syrian domestic market, Syrian Deputy Minister of Economy Hayan Solaiman, who also heads the committee for international trade, told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
As the head of a high-ranking delegation of Syrian bankers and business people Solaiman paid an 8-day visit to Moscow in the previous week, where he discussed the concrete ways of bilateral business cooperation. In his words, already presently the share of imports of Russian goods purchased by Syria reached 15 percent from five percent before the war and will reach 35 percent within next two years. The trade between the countries went up by 40 percent for the past year alone, he said. “Syria has made a proposal to accede to the Customs Union and the countries are negotiating Syria’s entry in the Russian-Belarusian-Kazakh organization as an observer. President Bashar al-Assad gave an instruction to shift the vector of relations from Western countries to Russia and other countries, which support Syria in this hard time for us. We also bid for membership and are in talks over the accession in the BRICS (the grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Pay attention to the fact that Russia is the leader in all these organizations,” the deputy minister of economy said.
In his words, Russia has already supported Syria in many spheres, and presently Syria expects the participation of Russian companies in economic transformation of the country - the construction of plants of food and woodworking industries, the enterprises for the repairs of equipment, purchase of airplanes for the civil aviation. “At the present moment Russia and Syria are discussing Russia’s allocation of the credit line to Syria, the negotiations continue at the level of the chairpersons of the Central Banks in the two countries,” Solaiman said. He did not name an exact sum of credit, only confirming that this credit may range between three and six billion dollars. This credit will be allocated following the suit of a credit to Iran, as one billion dollars will be earmarked for the purchase of first necessities for a period of one year and three billion dollars for the purchase of oil products. “Meanwhile, our countries refuse the settlements in the hard currency and passed to mutual settlements in roubles and Syrian pounds. The current exchange rate is somewhere between one rouble to seven and a half Syrian pounds and one rouble to eight Syrian pounds,” Solaiman said.
The deputy minister also noted that if earlier Russia had exported the Syrian agricultural products through Turkey, nowadays the countries refused this practice and Syria will deliver its products, particularly citruses, to Russia by sea.
The countries also agreed that only Russian companies will conduct oil prospecting in Syria. The Russian companies will restore the deposits in Der-az-Zor and will repair the oil pipeline to the Mediterranean port of Baniyas.
As an example of successful cooperation Solaiman cited a contract for Syria’s purchase of a flour mill in the town of Pushkino in Moscow Region. “I hope that similar contracts will be concluded and the agreements to this effect are already reached,” the Syrian deputy minister of economy said.
Meanwhile, he noted that despite obvious successes Russian companies resolve the issues of cooperation too slowly and for a long time. For their part, Iranian companies, who realized the prospect of getting a share on the Syrian market, are negotiating actively and propose concrete projects for the restoration of the country. “I want to note once again that our president has set a concrete task to develop economic and trade relations with Russia, reorient fully the market from the West to Russia. Earlier 52 percent of our market was oriented at the EU states, according to the presidential decree, we should reorient this flow towards the East in the near future. We should reach such high figures in the economy as those that were attained in political relations with Russia,” the Syrian deputy minister of economy added.