PRESIDENTS AL-ASSAD/ PATIL CONFERENCE

 Damascus, (SANA)- President Bashar Al-Assad on Saturday stressed that the visit of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil of India will boost the historical relations between Syria and India established over thousands of years starting with the Silk Road, and translated over the past decades into official and popular relations in all fields.

President Al-Assad's remarks came at the end of a round of extensive talks he held with President Devisingh Patil, attended by the members of the two official delegations.

In their press statements, the two presidents summed up their talks, stressing the importance of increasing trade transactions and developing economic relations to the level of the political relations.

Presidents Al-Assad and Devisingh Patil expressed their support to reform the United Nations to become more democratic, representative and efficient, with the Indian President renewing her country's strong support to Syria's legitimate right to full restoration of the occupied Golan as soon as possible.

President Al-Assad said that his talks with President Devisingh Patil dealt with issues already raised during his visit to India in 2008.

He added that focus was placed on means of upgrading the economic relations to the level of the historical and political relations, given that the volume of trade exchange, although progressing, is still modest in light of the potentials of both countries and their positions in terms of the geographical location and the regional alliances they are connected by, which provide broad and promising markets for the trade flow.

"Syria is witnessing a dynamic economic movement to build bridges of cooperation with the friendly countries in the world," said President Al-Assad, pointing out that Syria is bound through free trade agreements with a number of Arab countries in the framework of the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement, and also with a number of the region's countries.

The President added that Syria is working on a link process connecting it with geographically near and far countries through infrastructure networks in the fields of energy, oil and gas with the aim of creating an economic sphere for all these countries to expand the base of their common interests.

President Al-Assad added that India has special importance given its rich natural resources, its being part of a huge market area in Asia and its advanced position in the fields of economy and the scientific and technical development where India has made a distinguished progress on the international level.

He also referred to India being part of international economic alliances and organizations among countries which are important and active on the international trade arena and its richness in well-qualified human resources.

"The talks also dealt with the two countries' growing relations in important economic sectors such as industry, agriculture, health, oil, mineral resources, phosphate, electricity, transport, communications and technology," said President Al-Assad.

The president pointed out to the possibility of establishing real strategic partnerships in various fields of industry including the software, textile, medicinal and food industries with benefiting from the Indian advanced technology.

In this context, President Al-Assad cited the Center of Excellence for Information Technology established in Syria as one of the fruits of joint cooperation with India, in addition to the existing cooperation in the electricity field in terms of the signed contracts for transmission plants and financing.

President Al-Assad said, ''We talked about the importance of doubling efforts to establish more legal frameworks regulating bilateral relations, mainly in the transport sector as it constitutes the backbone of trade.''

''We also discussed the growing role of the business society and the importance of effective engagement of businessmen from the two countries in upgrading bilateral relations and participating, as a vital partner, in investment projects and future partnerships between the two countries.''

President Al-Assad thanked President Devisingh Patil for India's supportive stances to the Arab rights, notably the Palestinian and Golan causes, adding that India, which suffered from occupation, knows more than others the just cause of peoples under occupation.

President Al-Assad went on to say, ''I explained to President Devisingh Patil how the absence of peace, due to the Israeli policies and despite Syria's relentless efforts to achieve it, aggravates tension and undermines Syria's endeavors for development and economic prosperity''.

President Al-Assad stressed that only the peace, based on the international legitimacy resolutions and the land-for-peace principle which restores the rights to their legitimate owners guarantees security, stability and prosperity in the region and the world.

President Al-Assad hoped that the Syrian-Indian relations, together with the international efforts, will help put halt the suffering of the Palestinian people besieged by a racial separation wall.

President Al-Assad affirmed that both countries reiterate their condemnation of terrorism in all its form, and that Syria, on the 2nd anniversary of the Mumbai terrorist bombings on Friday, reiterates its support to India in combating terrorism to reach a secure and stable world.

His Excellency pointed out that he affirmed Syria's support to the recent joint statement of the foreign ministers of India, China and Russia regarding the right of Iran and all countries to possess nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, stressing the need to make the Middle East free of all types of weapons of mass destruction.

"Syria agrees with India on the need to reform the UN to become more democratic, representative and efficient," President Al-Assad said, adding that Syria welcomes the election of India as a member of the UN Security Council for 2011-2012 and looks forward to cooperating with it in the Council, indicating to Syria's support to India to win a permanent seat at the Security Council.

President Al-Assad welcomed President Devisingh Patil and the accompanying delegation, expressing happiness over this visit particularly since it marks the first visit of an Indian president to Syria.

For her part, President Devisingh Patil expressed happiness for being in Syria, noting that Syria is similar to India in being the home of a deep-rooted civilization, adding that this visit is a continuation of the talks initiated with President Al-Assad during his visit to India in June 2008.

The Indian President affirmed that her talks with President Al-Assad were very constructive, taking place in a friendly atmosphere and covering several joint issues in addition to international and regional issues of mutual interest, saying "we are glad for the progress in bilateral relations between Syria and India in the past decades… we are committed to further strengthening the bonds of these relations."

President Devisingh Patil said that the international economic recession imposed serious challenges since the beginning of 2008, affecting both Syria and India.

She affirmed that India managed to recover and achieve greater growth rates, and the same goes for Syria which is carrying out a policy of drastic economic reform under the leadership of President Al-Assad, adding that the economic development will open new prospects for work and cooperation between industrialists and businessmen in both countries.

The Indian President pointed out that talks dealt with the decision taken by the joint committee which convened in June 2010 in Damascus to double trade between Syria and India in the next three years, with both sides affirming the need to achieve this goal. She added that the businessmen accompanying her will discuss cooperation opportunities with their Syrian counterpart.

President Devisingh Patil also announced that the Syrian-Indian Business Council will be launched on Sunday, and that the two sides will focus on bolstering commercial and economic relations between Syria and India, particularly in the fields that present great cooperation opportunities such as phosphates and tourism.

She added that the reason for economic relations not reaching their full potential is the lack of knowledge of each side's requirements and capabilities.

The Indian President said that India presented a USD 100 million line of credit to be used in Syrian sectors that are agreed upon mutually while taking Syrian priorities into consideration, noting that this line of credit is the third to be presented by India in order to encourage Indian companies to work in development projects in Syria and provide them with more knowledge about the Syrian market.

President Devisingh Patil expressed confidence that this step will lead to further cooperation, pointing out that the Center of Excellence for Information Technology which was agreed upon during President Al-Assad's visit to India will be put into use soon.

"India is looking forward to greater cooperation with Syria in other fields such as information technology, training in highly-specialized fields, and building capabilities in several fields," she said, adding that grants provided to Syria through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Program increased from 75 to 90.

The Indian President said that signing the cultural exchange program and the cooperation agreements between mass media establishments on Saturday will facilitate information flow and bring the two peoples closer to each other.

President Devisingh Patil reiterated her country's strong support to Syria's legitimate right to restore the entire occupied Syrian Golan as soon as possible, stressing that India supports firmly all the Arab just causes and reiterates today constant support for finding a peaceful, comprehensive and permanent solution in the Middle East based on the UN relevant resolutions.

The Indian President concluded by affirming her confidence that the relations between Syria and India will continue to prosper, wishing the Syrian people a bright future.

President Bashar Al-Assad and Mrs. Asma Al-Assad held a dinner banquet in honor of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil of India and her husband, Dr. Devisingh Shekhawat.

President Al-Assad delivered a speech in which he said the historical relations between Syria and India went beyond what is written in the history documents as these relations were built by the two peoples through amity and fraternity over thousands of years where these bridges had witnessed the crossing of cultures and civilizations and a lot of hopes and mutual interaction.

President Al-Assad added that what was built by our ancestors in the past of humanitarian ties had laid the foundation for genuine cooperation and friendship relations between India and the Arab world. Today Syria seeks to build more bridges of communication and open more doors through which the two peoples can cross towards a future full of prosperity and progress.

The President considered that the continued situation of insecurity and instability that afflicted the Middle East for decades as a result of the absence of peace will only lead to more wars, unrest, and negative repercussions on the rest of the world, thus necessitating a serious stand by all nations and peoples who are eager for peace to put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict in our region.

"Syria is looking, through the upcoming membership of India in the Security Council, to India's continued support for our issues and help for realizing peace based on the legitimacy resolutions, the land-for-peace principle and for removing all obstacles that would impede the security and stability in our continent and the world, especially that India experienced the justice of our issues so it supported our legitimate rights, on top of which is the issue of Golan and the Palestinian cause.''

For her part, President Devisingh Patil said the Syrian-Indian relations are characterized by warmth and mutual respect. The two countries are heirs of ancient civilizations that maintained their ancient values including respect for diversity and equal treatment of all religions.

 She confirmed that West Asia is of great significance for India as it enjoys cultural and commercial ties with countries of this region. The Indian President expressed her admiration over the economic reforms in Syria under the leadership of President Bashar Al-Assad and the results achieved so far, noting that Indian experience does not differ from the experience in Syria to achieve overall growth.

On the situation in the Middle East, President Devisingh Patil considered that the conflict is essentially political one and could not be solved by force.

She added that India supports the establishment of a sovereign and viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The President appreciated Syria's support for the election of India in the Security Council for 2011-2012 and for the unwavering support which is expressed by Syria for India's permanent membership in the Security Council.