DAMASCUS, January 17. /TASS/. Syrian President Bashar Assad said at a meeting with the visiting Russian delegation on Thursday that he wants to visit Crimea and Sevastopol.
"When we touched upon the agreement on cooperation between Sevastopol and the [Syrian] Tartus governorate [that was signed as part of the Russian delegation’s visit on Tuesday], Syrian President Bashar Assad said he wants to visit Sevastopol and Crimea," Dmitry Belik, a lawmaker of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house and a delegation member, told journalists after the meeting.
According to Belik, the Syrian president also said he would like to "expand cooperation, including in the tourism sector." "In turn, I suggested we look at possibilities to establish tourist exchanges between Sevastopol and Tartus as the second stage of the agreement implementation, along with transport and cargo cooperation," he said, adding that Assad noted that "it is nor right that most of Syrians choose to spend their vacations in the Western countries and it would be good if they opt for Russia."
Dmitry Sablin, who leads the Russian delegation, confirmed that Assad said he wants to visit Sevastopol. "My children have been in Crimea (in the Artek children’s recreation and health center - TASS), they have made friends in Russia and are still in touch with them," he cited the Syrian president as saying.
According to Sablin, President Assad hailed the strategic importance of the agreement between Sevastopol and Syria’s Tartus governorate. "Assad said this agreement is important not only in terms of trade. It should be considered from a boarder point of view, i.e. as a stage of expanding Russia’s strategic presence," he said.
Thus, in his words, the Syrian president noted that China is now building transport links across the entire world. "As a great power, Russia should also use such an approach, involving private companies," Sablin cited Assad as saying. He also said that the Syrian president spoke in favor of the development of air service between the two countries.
According to a TASS correspondent, the Syrian president welcomed the Russian delegation at the doors of the presidential residence in Damascus and greeted each one of the delegation members.
The Russian delegation arrived in Damascus on Monday. The sides have already signed an agreement between Sevastopol and Tartus on the development of ties in the trade-and-economic, scientific-and-technical, cultural, humanitarian and social spheres.