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Otri, Erdogan at Strategic Cooperation Council Meeting: Building Deep-Rooted Partnership, Raising Trade Exchange to USD 5 Billion.

Damascus, (SANA) -- The first meeting of the Syrian-Turkish High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council kicked off on Wednesday, co-chaired by Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Premier Otri said the first meeting of the Council, which was agreed upon and announced during the visit of President Bashar al-Assad to Turkey in September, crowns the unique relations and represents an answer to the historic, cultural and social bonds between the two countries and their peoples.Otri stressed that the meeting forms the basis for a deep-rooted partnership that bolsters coordination and integration, in addition to affirming both sides' determination to carry on along the chosen course and put planned projects and ideas into effect to push joint cooperation forward.The Prime Minister noted that cooperation relations between Syria and Turkey were elevated to remarkable levels by the honest will and efforts, and that these growing relations are based on the strong fraternal relations between the peoples and leaders of the two countries on one side and the various agreements and memos of understanding and cooperation protocols in various fields on the other.Otri added that this was further bolstered by official visits, exchanging meetings among businessmen and economic activities, and organizing conferences and forums, all of which prepared a suitable atmosphere and solid grounds for building the basis of a strategic partnership, expanding economic cooperation, and increasing trade exchange from USD 350 million in 2004 to around USD 2 billion in 2009, affirming determination for increasing trade exchange to amount to USD 5 billion per year in accordance to signed agreements such as the Free Trade Zone agreement of 2007.He also pointed out that the governments of both countries are very interested in enriching and developing achievements by taking a number of steps that realize the goals of the Strategic Cooperation Council, producing tangible results similar to the decision to cancel entry visa requirements for the citizens of both countries, a step which created public and official relief in both countries.Otri said this historic decision will have a positive effect on the movement of individuals, businessmen, goods and vehicles, serving to develop land transport, increase trade, encourage tourism, develop investments and establish partnership, adding that the opening of the Aleppo-Gaziantep railroad is yet another step in achieving the goals envisioned by the two countries."The Middle East is witnessing economic and political challenges, and their ramifications and various effects reflect on security, stability and chances for construction and development in it," the Prime Minister said, stressing that greatest threat to the region is external plots along with Israeli plots and dreams of expansion and controlling the region and its peoples' resources."Syria affirmed the choice of just and comprehensive peace that restores rights to their owners according to the principle of land-for-peace and relevant resolutions of international legitimacy, but Israel's obstinacy and non-responsiveness to the requirements of peace led to the stalling of the peace process and the regional and international initiatives in that regard," Otri said.He added that Syria lauds Turkey's stances regarding Arab causes, its support of the Palestinian people's rights, and its role in putting an end to regional wars and conflicts and settling disputes via diplomacy and political means, adding "Syria appreciates greatly Turkey's efforts to achieve just and comprehensive peace, particularly its role as a fair sponsor of indirect talks between Syria and Israel, which didn't reach their required results due to Israel's savage and destructive aggression on the people of Gaza."Otri concluded by expressing utmost appreciation of the Turkish Prime Minister's honest efforts for bolstering cooperation relations between Syria and Turkey, extending thanks to members of the two countries' delegations and members of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, who had been working during the past months to prepare for this meeting. He hoped that the meeting will be successful and achieve the interests of the two neighboring countries and their fraternal peoples in all fields of coordination, integration and cooperation.For his part, Prime Minister Erdogan said that the first meeting of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council is a historic day for relations between the two countries that share history, culture and values, adding that cooperation between Syria and Turkey made considerable progress in the fields of economy and trade, making advanced strides that will be further bolstered by the agreements to be signed during the meeting.Erdogan said canceling the entry visa requirements between the two countries and the Free Trade Zone agreement led to increasing trade exchange, adding "We will work to increase trade exchange in coming years to reach USD 5 billion."The Turkish Premier stressed the need to follow up on steps and procedures to increase the flow of goods and merchandise and the entry of individuals, which requires developing border crossing points and services infrastructure, activating signed agreements, and improving road and railroad connection between the two countries.Erdogan underlined the importance of cooperating in the fields of economy, investment and banking, in addition to establishing partnerships between Syrian and Turkish companies. He also lauded the process of advancement and reform taking place in Syria, affirming his country's desire to participate in the development process in Syria and exchanging expertise between Syrian and Turkish companies, adding that Turkey is intent on increasing its future investments in Syria, stressing the role of businessmen in that regard."The agreements that will be signed between the two countries will be a work program through which we will increase and develop cooperation projects in the fields of transport, energy, natural gas, petroleum, mineral resources, contracting and construction and other sectors in order to achieve mutual interests," Erdogan said, underlining the importance of the two countries' geographic location that enables them to be a portal to neighboring countries.The Turkish Premier pointed out to the standing cooperation between Syrian and Turkish companies in projects of infrastructure, developing airports and harbors, and improving their technical and economic services. He stressed the importance of expanding standing projects between the two countries to include more sectors and fields, in addition to the need for developing border areas and crossing points.Erdogan indicated to the importance of achieving just and comprehensive peace in the region, noting Turkey's efforts in that regard, which were thwarted by Israel's aggressions against the Palestinian people in Gaza, describing these aggressions as "horrible and peerless in history, using internationally-banned weapons"The Turkish Prime Minister reiterated his country's readiness to participate in any peace talks if Israel shows serious will to achieve just and comprehensive peace.H. Sabbagh

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Publication:Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA)
Date:Dec 23, 2009
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