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SYRIA


  
   

 
Key Economic Data 
 
  2002 2001 2000 Ranking(2002)
GDP
Millions of US $ 21,900 19,500  17,896 64
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,130 1,040     950 131
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Area (sq.km)
185,180


Population
17,585,540

Capital
Damascus

Currency
 Syrian pound (SYP)

President 
Bashir al-Asad


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Background:
The Ba'ath Party and the rule of Hafez al-Asad
In many ways modern Syria has followed the familiar course of Arab nationalism during the 1950s inspired by the Egypt of Nasser and from 1958 to 1961 united with Egypt to form the United Arab Republic. Dispute over leadership dissolved that union quickly, and Syria would form the Syrian Arab Republic in 1961. In 1963 the Ba'ath Party seized power. The Ba'ath (renaissance or rebirth) party professed socialist inclinations and it was conceived by the two Syrian teachers the Christian Michel Aflaq and the Muslim Salah al-Din Bitar as an ideology to fight European colonialism in the 1930s. The Ba'ath is the same nominal party that has ruled Iraq from the same period in the 1960s until April 2003 when the rule of its most infamous exponent, Saddam Hussein was terminated by the Anglo-American invasion that began in March of that same year. It's important to recognize that, while the Ba'athist leaders described their seizure of power in 1963 as a revolution, it was in fact a coup carried out by a few military officers, and did not result, nor did it have the support of, a mass uprising of workers and peasants. 
The resulting regime was another military dictatorship. Bitar became the first president from 1963 to 1966 when a more radical faction seized power. A further coup in 1970 brought Hafiz al Asad to power. He ruled Syria until his death in 2000, when his son Bashir al Asad took over. The foundation of the party since the coup has rested with the Alawites, a Shi'i Muslim sect to which less than ten per cent of the Syrian population is affiliated. Asad therefore closed the circle of power to Alawites he could trust and co-opt letting few outsiders into the inner circle. The nominal use of the term 'revolution' to describe what was in fact a coup is crucial in understanding the importance the Syrian Ba'athist party under the Asad regime has placed on maintaining an extensive and repressive internal security apparatus and why reforms, economic and political, have been so difficult to implement. In a very similar approach to that of his neighbouring Ba'athist rival Saddam Hussein, Asad relied on a power group that was organized far more on a tribal or ethnic basis, rather than an ideological one. 

Regional Tensions: The Ottoman past, Israel and the USA
Internal problems have been compounded by the events of the region in which Syria has unavoidably become entangled even before the period of the European mandates in the 1920s and 30s that fuelled the rise of nationalist parties and ideologies. During the Ottoman Empire the area now occupied by Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and the current Syria was part of the region known as Bilad-al-Sham. The repercussions of this legacy are still being felt. In 1860 there was a civil war that affected Damascus and the Lebanon involving Druze, Sunni Moslems, Maronite Christians and Jews - along with their European patrons engaged in bitter disputes that are still partially unresolved and that have contributed to fuelling inter-confessional tensions resulting in civil wars in Lebanon in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s. At the end of World War I and the defeat of Ottoman Turkey, The British and the French divided the region of Sham and drew the boundaries of new states. The inter-confessional tensions acquired a trans-national nature and the region continues to endure a constant level of tension. While Syria has enjoyed generally good relations with Turkey, its neighbour to the north, it has engaged in wars against Israel four times on the battlefield maintaining a level of war readiness best described as a 'cold-war'. 18,000 Syrians still live in the territory of the Golan, a precious source of water and arable land, occupied by Israel in 1967. 
Moreover, Syria has had disputes with fellow Ba'athist Iraq to the east supporting Iran in the latter's costly war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988 and continues to occupy part of Lebanon in which it played an important military role. Syria's initial involvement in Lebanon was during the 1976 civil war when it supported the Christian Maronites. The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon led by General, now Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon saw another round of military clashes between Syrian and Israeli forces. Meanwhile, as Iran's quiet ally in the war against Iraq, Syria also helped sustain the Shi'a faction represented by Hezbollah. In 1989, Syria endorsed the Charter of National Reconciliation, or "Taif Accord," a comprehensive plan for ending the Lebanese conflict negotiated under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco. More significantly, in May 1991, Lebanon and Syria signed the Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination outlined in the Ta'if Accord, which intended to establish the basis for Syrian-Lebanese relations. The Treaty's provisions have yet to be fulfilled. The Israeli occupation of south Lebanon until the spring of 2000, its frequent attacks on Hezbollah and other groups said to be operating in Lebanon and the second Intifada by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza territories have heightened Arab - Israeli tensions and precluded Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon. Syria also claims that the UN resolution 425, which called for Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, also demanded its withdrawal from the Sheba farms in the Golan Heights. This territory is often used by Hezbollah to launch attacks against Israel and is at the heart of continued tensions between the three countries.

The Two 'Gulf' Wars, Intifada II and the War on Terror
Escalating regional tensions exacerbated by the continuing intractability of the stalled Arab Israeli 'peace-process' and the USA's war on Iraq suggest that the Syrian presence in Lebanon will be extended indefinitely. However, when dealing with the United States, Asad has often adopted more strategic and pragmatic policies rather than ideological ones, confirming the need to insulate the party from popular tensions. Indeed, Asad's participation on the side of the American coalition during the 1991 Gulf War was a calculated gamble that paid off handsomely in terms of regional politics and international prestige - in the West. Syria's support was rewarded by considerable financial aid upwards of $2 billion from the USA and Arab oil producing states of the Gulf - who had, ironically, ignored Syria in the 80s for supporting Iran in the Iraq-Iran war - while also receiving a virtual blessing to pursue its interests in Lebanon. The important element that eluded it was the return of the Golan Heights, which are still occupied by Israel. In the mid 90s Syria's international prestige was heightened as it became clear that Syria's participation was crucial in any comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace arrangement.
The collapse of the Soviet Union also facilitated Syria's position in foreign policy orientation and it succeeded in securing better relations with the West and America during the Bush sr. and Clinton administrations. But, even as Bashir al Asad has taken steps to relax some of the Ba'ath party control while gradually shifting to a more liberal economic system, Syria has been relegated merely one step below 'Axis of Evil' status by the Bush jr. administration after the September 11th attacks and the so called War on Terror. Syria had provided assistance to the US in its pursuit of militant Islamic groups, but was opposed to Gulf War II as Syrian - Iraqi relations improved considerably in the last decade leading to the war. Syria even received oil from Iraq after re-opening a pipeline leading to the Mediterranean Sea, which was shut down in the tense period of the 80s decade. Moreover, the failure of the Arab - Israeli peace process has also relegated Syria to a less favourable geo-political position in the Americans' view and heightened tensions in the region of Sham, particularly in terms of allegations by Israel and the US that Syria continues to back Hezbollah, which is now also a fully recognized political party with representation at the Lebanese parliament. It seems that little has changed since Ottoman times. The political risks that Syria faces now are high as tensions between itself and Israel continue to increase, but there are also internal issues related to Bashir al Asad's gradual efforts to liberalize the economy as well as the political system.

The economy and economic liberalization efforts
Most analysts have conceded that during the 1950s Syria was one of the most rapidly developing countries in the Third World. Its economic growth was diversified and relied on one of the healthiest agricultural production systems in the entire Middle East that was even in the declining growth years of the 1980s, still capable of guaranteeing a high degree of self sufficiency in food supply. Few countries in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region can claim such an achievement. Syria was also industrializing at a better rate than Egypt and could also count on petroleum and natural gas resources. However, the frequent coups and political instability in the early decades of Syria's independence mismanaged the many advantages that it held over its neighbours, not least of which were a relatively strong supply of water and arable land. Ideological concerns led to the nationalization of most enterprises and the alienation of the business and economic establishment. Many of the Sunni capitalists fled to neighbouring Lebanon where they shifted their economic activity from capital intensive industry and agriculture to services and trade. 
The economy of Syria, then, has since the 1960s been characterized by varying degrees of state intervention designed to reduce regional and class disparities. This is crucial in understanding the Asad's regime's reluctance to adopt full liberalization measures and the ineffectiveness of reforms. As in any highly nationalized economy, reform presents severe economic as well as political challenges; Syria's situation is made all the more difficult as such reforms also have a delicate ethnic dimension. 

The Reforms and Their Political Risks
Economic reform in Syria has been a gradual process that was actually begun with the ascension of Hafez al Asad to power in 1970. He relaxed some of the nationalization measures of the 1960s and fostered the emergence of a new business class based on state officials who were allowed to amass fortunes in exacting transaction fees from foreign companies wishing to do business in Syria. He also took a risk by inviting some of the Sunni capitalists and landlords, who left Syria in the wake of its nationalization, back, inviting them to invest in the important industrial, tourism, construction and agricultural sectors along with the government officials - mostly from the Alawite minority - as they accumulated wealth. Industry is very important in the Syrian economy accounting for 15% of the labour force and even in the recession in the 80s, Syrian GNP was still made up 18% by industrial manufacturing, while oil exports only accounted for 4% in a pattern which is the very reverse of the Gulf States.
The 1980s saw the first important efforts to implement market reforms. The Iran - Iraq war caused shortages in foreign exchange, while subsidized oil from Iran and budget spending cuts of 5% were unable to sustain the subsidies on which the distributive socialist pretensions of the government rested. Its greatest concern was to prevent a rise of the unemployment rate, while also blocking the rise of the Sunni capitalist class that dominated politics prior to 1958. By 1988, the Syrian pound was devalued by 70% to invite inflows of hard currency and mixed private - public sector enterprises in agriculture (a precursor of Britain's Private Finance Initiatives) were formed with the aid of twelve entrepreneurs. The measures worked, but the government used the extra revenues to re-invest in public enterprises and was then faced by having to import food after a long drought severely reduced agricultural output. 
Nevertheless, while these reforms appear rather typical on paper, it must be appreciated that Asad had to play a skilful balancing act in managing the tensions in the all important ethnic element of the equation. Inviting Sunnis to resume a role at the commanding end of the economy, even if limited, was an affront to the Alawite elite that relied on Asad. The revolt of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama, which ended with the ruthless extermination of 20,000 of its inhabitants in 1982 by the armed forces, was largely a revolt by the Sunnis against the Alawite minority and was supported by the Sunni business middle class of Damascus. It was this continued threat of reprisal against Sunnis that also gave the government some room for reform. Hama had sent a clear message of what just how much dissent would be tolerated. The Sunnis were allowed to take part in the economy but only so long as the Alawites dominated. The balance that is needed in managing the ethnic tensions is a continuing factor in slowing the rate of reform today. 
Bashir al-Asad cannot move too rapidly in order not damage his Alawite basis of support, which is the only real support he can count on, given the nature of his succession and the continued reliance on a repressive security apparatus to sustain him. Asad the younger, a British trained ophthalmologist, was a reluctant choice as successor and lacks the political determination to engage the kind of massive violent reprisals that his father, a military man, showed with Hama. In many ways, Bashir al Asad is a prisoner of the strong minority that relies on the perpetuation of the Asad legacy for its survival. Reforms will, therefore, inevitably be gradual as he faces both the internal threat of dissent, from his own Alawite sect as well as from the Sunni majority, as well as the external one posed by increasing tensions in the region and continued threats from the United States.

Bringing Globalization to Syria
Political risk is doubtless very high. Meanwhile, support from the Gulf States is declining and the unemployment rate, which Asad's father was so concerned in reducing, is now estimated at 25% to 30%. The political and likely military tensions in the region mean that military spending will be sustained and even increased in order deal with the multiple threats. This will free up even less money for social welfare support, which would in political terms allow Bashir al Asad to consider increasing the rate of market reform. A solution to this problem could come in the form of greater foreign involvement in the Syrian economy while increasing efforts to integrate it in the global economy. In other words bring Syria into globalization. Regional efforts promoted by the European Union such as the Mediterranean free trade zone which has been proposed for 2010 are welcome by Syria.
Indeed, Syria maintains very good relations with Italy and Spain, two countries that are sure to play a very significant role in a more open Syrian economy. Hoping to generate foreign investments, Bashir al Asad has announced the privatization of the banking sector in 2002 ending forty years of the exclusively government run financial system. The problem remains, nevertheless, that the legal system is not designed to protect the accumulation of capital; there being no mechanisms in place to protect it institutionally. Any serious effort to invite foreign investment will have to address this fundamental lack of financial structures, which is currently keeping Syria out of the fold of globalization. 
The current instability of the region may also play to Syria's advantage in terms of restructuring the financial system. Lebanon's advanced financial services and its long trading traditions have long played a role akin to what Hong Kong has done for China. In the eventuality that Lebanon became fully absorbed by Syria as part of a regional re-stabilization that also include a peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs, the economic prospects for Syria and the region would improve dramatically. The chances of this happening in the short term are extremely slim, barring a miracle - in a region long famed for this type of phenomenon - but for the time being such hopes merely reflect how many and how obstinate the obstacles are to balanced and sustainable economic growth. 

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Update No: 005 - (01/04/04)

Still in Limbo
Syria remains in limbo and the international situation in March does not bode well for the future of the Asad regime. International as well as internal pressure for change is mounting, even while the regime itself has had to delay or restrict the reforms started when Bashir Al-Asad took over from his father Hafez in the spring of 2000. As previous reports have stressed, external events are reducing the Syrian government's power to act and limiting its effort into seeking better relations with the West, while attempting to maintain a repressive grip on power, which continues to be highly intolerant of dissent. In many ways, Syria's problems reflect those of the Arab world in general, and the clamorous failure of the Arab League Summit that took place in Tunis at the end of March serves as a fitting reminder of the difficulties and pressure faced by Arab countries to implement reforms and 'democratize' emanating from the US occupation of Iraq. During the preparatory meetings for the summit on Friday and Saturday, Syria and Saudi Arabia fought against the inclusion of the word democracy in a summit paper that was be ratified Monday. 
The summit was declared closed by President Ben Ali of Tunisia as all participants talked of change, without agreeing on what this means and being careful not to erode their own power structures. In Syria the spring festival of Nawruz, celebrated by Kurds and Iranians, and a soccer match exacerbated tensions among Syria's 2 million strong (in a country of 17 million) Kurdish population. Syrian-Israeli tensions have also worsened after the murder of Sheikh Yassin of Hamas and the inevitable threats of retaliation coming from Hizbollah in Syrian controlled Lebanon. Meanwhile, as Syria continues a relentless public relations campaign to improve its international image, it is still unclear whether or not in April the United States will likely adopt the much-touted sanctions announced in December 2003. Surely, the PR effort might lose steam over the revelations that the one of the principal suspects charged with several counts of terrorism behind the March 11 train bombings in Madrid is Basel Ghayoun, a Syrian. 

Rising Kurdish Tensions
Clashes between Syrian security forces and ethnic Kurds in the middle of March no doubt represent the worse internal crisis faced by Bashir al-Asad and have raised the eerie prospect of separatism, made all the more dangerous by the situation in Iraq. The clashes started as supporters of two rival football teams played in a hotly contested match in the town of Qamishli. One of the teams had a prominent number of Kurdish players. The potential for soccer riots to turn into anti-government violent protests is always strong in the Arab world. In 1996, a soccer riot in Tripoli, Libya had strong political overtones as protesters hurled insults at Col. Qadhafi and his son Sa'ad who owned one of the teams. The number of dead from that event was never officially revealed, but local rumours suggested it was in the hundreds. As for the Qamshili protest, it spread to other cities in northeast Syria, as Kurds set fire to government buildings. The Syrian government claimed 25 people died, though Kurdish sources insist that the actual number is far greater. Kurdish sources said scores of Kurds were killed and about 1,500 were arrested in the unrest. Hundreds more were wounded and arrested. If the spark of the riot was the soccer match, the actual reasons are tied to a desire for greater autonomy, as Syrian Kurds are influenced by their Iraqi counterparts, who are starting to enjoy an unprecedented degree of autonomy. The riots have been contained and the festival of Nawruz passed quietly dissipating fears of further rioting. The Kurdish revolt has made eminently clear that one of the reasons Syria opposed the Iraq war so vehemently was the fear of rising autonomy claims by its Kurdish population. Syria has faced very violent outbreaks in the past from other dissident elements, most famously a riot in 1982 by the Muslim Brotherhood in the town of Hama - also Northern Syria - that was terminated with full aerial bombardment, Tanks and artillery, costing an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 lives, in exemplary punishment to deter the SUNNI majority in Syria 
However, Syria is not the only country in the region to be concerned over the autonomy of the Iraqi Kurds, Turkey and Iran share fears of similar protests demanding autonomy. Reflecting current thinking at the White House, the president of the Washington Kurdish Institute, Najmaldin Karim, says all that: "Syria, Turkey and Iran have to do is grant their Kurdish population basic rights to be able to be educated in their language, participate freely in their elections and be able to have political association, then they don't have to worry about anybody separating from the country or establishing an independent state". Currently, Kurds in Syria are not allowed to study Kurdish language or form political parties - for that matter neither are other Syrians - and more than 150,000 have been denied Syrian nationality. The riots add to Syria's problems with the United States as the U.S. government has found one more reason to criticize the Syrian government accusing it of killing demonstrators and suppressing Kurds in places beyond the riots. Despite the US criticism and the threat of sanctions, it is highly unlikely that the Syrian Government will soften its position toward Kurdish aspirations of autonomy as indicated by the Chairman of the Syrian Human Rights Association in Damascus, Haitham al-Maleh. 

Regional and Internal Repercussions
Interestingly, while the US have frequently accused Syria of paying insufficient attention to its border with Iraq, the Kurdish riots have shown just how vulnerable Syria has become to influences from Iraq. Accordingly, Syria sealed off its border with Iraq to prevent Kurdish sympathizers from trying to join forces with their fellow Kurds in Syria. No doubt, even Arab Iraqis loyal to the new US installed administration would rather Syria maintain closed borders to keep Kurdish aspirations of autonomy in check. Few in the Arab world will welcome US support of ethnic minorities in Iraq - and the Arab world in general. Observers have noted that the expansion of ethnic minority rights is tied to a wider process of democratization, which remains a difficult prospect in the region, let alone in Syria. The Kurds were the principal forgotten party when nation-states emerged out of the former British and French empires in the mid 1930's. Their plight was made worse by the ultra-nationalistic and integrationist policies of both of he Iraqi and the Syrian Ba'ath party. Iraq's new constitution, which grants far more rights to Kurds than ever before, will likely provoke Kurdish rebellions in Syria again. In addition, there are reports from the Turkish daily "Yeni Safak" that A Kurdish insurgency group based in Turkey, the PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party), has sent 42 operatives into Syria to stir up anti-regime unrest from northern Iraq and southern Turkey. The sources said the PKK operatives have been organizing Kurds to oppose the regime of President Bashar Asad amid Kurdish riots earlier this month that stemmed from the clash at the soccer game in Qamishli. 
In January and February of this year, President Asad visited Turkey to reinforce cooperation as well as discuss their mutually problematic Kurdish issue. While, the US may be criticizing Syria, its ally Turkey is not as it has long feared that an autonomous Kurdish population anywhere along its borders would incite its own Kurdish population. Indeed, Turkish security sources said the operatives included those in northern Iraq sought by Ankara where it is believed up to 5,000 PKK operatives remain based along the mountains of the Iraqi-Turkish border. 
The Kurdish riots have sparked other protests by human rights activists belonging to Committees for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria who demanded political and civil reforms on the 41st anniversary of the ruling party's accession, the 1963 Revolution that brought the Ba'ath party to power in Syria in 1963. There were few more than 20 activists, who were promptly arrested; however, in Syria even such a number is very significant given the degree of political repression. The group was founded by Aktham Naisse, one of those arrested. He spent several years in detention and was pardoned by the current president's father Hafez al-Asad in 1998, when Syria was starting to consider some political reforms. Unlike in previous years, the Syrian and Lebanese press criticized Syria's government under President Bashar Al-Asad who has failed to carry out the reforms he promised in his inaugural speech. In her column in the Syrian government daily Teshreen, Syrian author Nadia Khousat expressed her disappointment with the restrictions imposed on writers and journalists in Syria in discussing domestic problems. 

Continued Diplomatic Efforts...and Obstacles
Syria has been trying to reach the United States through Australia where its charge d'affaires held talks with the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to try to convince him that Syria is not a backer of terrorism and that its isolation from the mainstream international community should end. Downer repeated Bush's statements to the effect that he would like to see Syria follow Libya's example in returning to the international fold by formally declaring and abandoning any effort to obtain weapons of mass destruction and control any flow of terrorists across its borders. For his part, the chargť d'affaires stressed that Syria wanted to increase its engagement with Australia "and more broadly with the international community." Syria is about to open an embassy in Canberra following a recent visit to Syria by Trade Minister Mark Vaile and another by a delegation of Australian parliamentarians. Nevertheless, the killing of Sheikh Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, will have repercussions in Syria that will further strain its relationship with Israel, the tensions with which are proffered as the reason for Syria's reluctance to give up its weapons programs. Israel has indicated that, after Yassin, Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah could also be targeted as well as Khaled Mashaal, Hamas' political chief, who at one point was nominated as Yassin's successor. Mosad agents failed to kill him in 1997. He is believed to operate from Syria. Moussa Abu Marzook is Mashaal's number two in the political bureau of Hamas also lives in Syria. Both are hard to assassinate without far reaching consequences.
It is expected that in mid-April the United States will impose a light version of the sanctions against Syria promised in December under the Syrian Accountability Act. The sanctions are expected to be mostly economic, and though the US has very little trade with Syria, the idea will be to dissuade other countries from investing there, as was the case for Libya before the recent thaw in relations. Syria has recently witnessed an expansion of foreign investment in its rising oil industry, as noted in previous updates, and the sanctions could curtail this growth. However, it is reported that some officials in Washington are concerned that the rising tensions in the region caused by the murder of Sheikh Yassin would render the imposition of sanctions now very difficult and counterproductive. Certainly, it would be perceived as yet another injustice being dealt to an Arab country while Israel received tacit approval for actions, which the international community has officially condemned, not to mention the fact that the US has been pushing for reforms and encouraging Arab countries to act responsibly. 
On a lighter note, Bashar's public relations campaign got a boost when he was bestowed with the "Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Francesco I, the " Benemerenti " Gold medal. This was to mark the work of the President and the Government of the Syrian Arab republic toward promoting greater understanding, dialogue and peaceful coexistence between the followers of all faiths in Syria. He is the first Muslim head of State to be recognized by the Order 

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BANKING

Syria and Turkey/Banks

Syria and Turkey on Thursday announced willingness to boost ties in the area of banking and wished to establish projects in the sphere of trade and investment, Syrian Arab News Agency reported. 
Turkey's Minister of Finance, Kemal Unakitan, held talks with his Syrian counterpart, Mohammed Al-Hussein, who hoped to boost ties of cooperation in the field of banking and said the Syrian Ministry of Finance would like to make use of the Turkish experience in scope of stock and exchange market. 
For his part, Unakitan stressed Turkey 's keenness to bolster ties with Syria in various domains especially in the banking, investment and trade as well as trade exchange and to remove obstacles and hinders facing them. . 
The Turkish Minister noted to the investment encouraging atmosphere as to build joint and successful projects between Syria and Turkey. 
The Turkish Minister was also received by Premier, Mohammed Naji Otri, to deal with joint ties of cooperation and the significance of backing them in the economy, trade, industry and investment scopes

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ENERGY

Turkey wants to cooperate with Syria in energy, oil drilling

State Minister, Kursad Tuzmen, said on 6th March that Turkish companies wanted to enter into the Syrian market. Tuzmen and an accompanying delegation, who were paying a visit to Damascus, visited Syrian Minister of Housing and Construction Nihad Mushantat and Syrian Minister of Irrigation, Nadir al-Bunni. In his meeting with Mushantat, Tuzmen said that Turkish-Syrian relations had not been at a desired level for long years but they had improved in recent years, Anatolia News Agency reported.
Tuzmen pointed out that signing a free trade agreement in order to further improve bilateral relations was important. He presented a draft text about free trade agreement to Syria, Tuzmen noted. Mushantat said that Turkey and Syria could cooperate in the Iraqi market.
In his visit to Al-Bunni, Tuzmen said that Turkish contracting and consultancy companies had undertaken important projects abroad. Tuzmen noted that Turkish companies wanted to enter into Syrian market. Al-Bunni said that Syria was ready to listen to problems of Turkish companies working in his country.
Meanwhile, Turkish and Syrian businessmen met to discuss trade and investment. Tuzmen said that they wanted to make cooperation with Syria on energy and oil. Tuzmen visited Syrian Oil and Natural Resources Minister, Ibrahim Haddad. Speaking at the meeting, Tuzmen said they wanted to improve Turkey's studies on energy with the energy studies of Syria carried out in the recent period.
Pointing out that Turkey and Syria were complementary with respect to their strategic positions, Tuzmen said they wanted to work with Syria on oil search, drilling of oil wells, services, natural gas transportation and technical aid.
Meanwhile, it was seen that Hatay Province was included in Syrian borders in maps in Syrian reserve map and some booklets. Replying to questions of reporters on the issue, Tuzmen said: "That is not a political map, that is a reserve map. It shows the reserves in that region. There is no such a thing in maps of Syria after 2003. I cannot engage in that small detail. My duty is to increase reciprocal trade volume and investment."
Tuzmen stressed that Turkey was a very big country and a strong country in the region, and noted that a full peace atmosphere in the region could be provided in case Turkey managed to apply a good model. Stressing that poverty was the difficulty of the region, Tuzmen said: "It is not possible to prevent anything before overcoming this poverty. Those people are our relatives."

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