Tactics growing into strategy
[b]Belarus and Syria have proven their intentions regarding the creation of a ‘whole new level of strategic partnership’, as stated in a joint declaration by presidents Alexander Lukashenko and Bashar Al-Assad, signed in July in Minsk [/b]The President of Belarus has visited Syria twice: in 1993, during the leadership of Hafez al-Assad, and in 2003, when the country was ruled by the current president. Warm personal relations have been established between Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Al-Assad, as noted during the July talks in Minsk.Belarus and Syria share similar positions on most international issues, advocating a multi-polar world based on respect for the independence and sovereignty of each state. The two countries render mutual assistance within international organisations and actively co-operate with the UN and the Non-Aligned Movement.
The President of Belarus has visited Syria twice: in 1993, during the leadership of Hafez al-Assad, and in 2003, when the country was ruled by the current president. Warm personal relations have been established between Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Al-Assad, as noted during the July talks in Minsk.
Belarus and Syria share similar positions on most international issues, advocating a multi-polar world based on respect for the independence and sovereignty of each state. The two countries render mutual assistance within international organisations and actively co-operate with the UN and the Non-Aligned Movement.
“I’m very pleased that we enjoy friendly relations with you,” noted Mr. Lukashenko to Bashar Al-Assad.
Both presidents believe that mutual understanding at a political level should be converted to active economic relations. Our turnover with Syria has been modest; in 2008, it stood at $85.5m, and even dropped to $57.7m last year due to the crisis. The establishment of assembly facilities in Syria may significantly raise Belarusian exports. Minsk is ready to partner Damascus in all branches — including machine building, agriculture and the military-technical sphere. “Proceed from the fact that you are our friends. We are ready to make anything you like in Syria,” asserted Mr. Lukashenko while inviting his colleague to close economic collaboration.
A packet of documents has been signed in the presence of the two presidents, dealing with co-operation in various branches and reflecting the breadth of our mutual interests. These include ‘an executive programme of technical and scientific co-operation in the field of agriculture’ and ‘a memorandum on intentions in the field of remote Earth sensing’. In addition, the two sides have discussed possibilities for co-operation within a multi-lateral format.
Minsk advocates setting up a free trade zone between Customs Union states and Syria (to be studied by the Customs Union Commission). In turn, Damascus is ready to use its potential in the Middle East to become a bridge for Belarus, connecting it with the markets of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan (Syria trades duty-free with these countries).
Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Al-Assad have also agreed to develop joint projects with Venezuela. In the near future, the Belarusian, Syrian and Venezuelan heads of state are to meet in Damascus to define avenues of trilateral co-operation. In a similar format, Minsk and Damascus have agreed to collaborate with Qatar.
Political initiatives were economically specified at a session of the Belarusian-Syrian Business Council, recently held in Minsk. Syria’s Trade and Economy Minister, Lamia Asi, noted that Damascus is ready to implement 13 joint projects with Belarus. Syrian businessmen are proposing to open joint trade houses in Minsk and Damascus and to organise several trade fairs in 2011. Moreover, representatives of Syrian businesses are keen to set up a joint venture to import and assemble Belarusian agricultural machinery — primarily tractors and laser level graders.
There is also interest in joint ventures to assemble and manufacture bore-hole pumps and electric transformers (to supply Syria and its neighbouring states). Belarusian partners have been invited to establish a joint enterprise to sell food products produced in both countries (vegetables, fruits and dried milk). Joint ventures in marine and land transportation have also been discussed, in addition to those dealing with olive oil and tourism.
To improve our business contacts, more regular, direct flights are planned between Minsk and Damascus, as well as simplification of visa procedure.
Ms. Asi hopes that business collaboration and trade turnover will expand between our states. “Our manufacturers won’t be in direct competition, since they offer different goods, which can be used to our mutual advantage,” she underlines, stressing the mutual complimentarity of the Belarusian and Syrian economies.
By Vitaly Volyanyuk