India, Syria discuss MEPP. agree to step up trade, economic ties,

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New Delhi, Jun 18 (UNI) India and Syria today signed three pacts for strengthening trade, economic and agricultural ties and discussed the need for greater involvement of regional and international participants for early implementation of UN resolutions on West Asia.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who arrived here yesterday on a four-day State visit to India, held discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today for more than an hour on the entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional and global issues.

The visit to India by a Syrian President comes after 30 years even though both countries have exchanged visits in between at various levels.

''The situation in West Asia figured prominently in discussions.

The need for progress in the various tracks of the peace process, early implementation of relevant UN resolutions and the need for greater involvement of all significant regional and international participants were discussed,'' a spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry said.

Noting the recent developments in West Asia, the two sides agreed to stay in close consultation on the next steps in the peace process.

The Indian delegation at the talks included External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan.

President Assad was assisted by his Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, Minister for Expatriates Dr. Ms. Buthaina Shaaban, Minister of Economy and Trade Amer Husni Lutfi and Minister of Telecommunication and Technology Emad Sabouni.

After the talks, the two countries signed three pacts for strengthening trade and economic ties and for cooperation in agriculture.

These include an Agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and a Work Plan under Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Cooperation in Agriculture and Allied Sectors for 2008-2009.

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