Patil to end visit to Syria, to return to New Delhi

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Damascus, Nov.29 (ANI): Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil will conclude her four-day visit to the Syrian Arab Republic on Monday, and return home later tonight.

On Monday, Patil will visit the International Centre for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Aleppo, another historical city in Syria.

Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Latha Reddy, said that a number of Indian scientists are working at and are closely associated with ICARDA.

Dry land farming is an area of mutual interest, she said, adding that they would be giving a presentation on ICARDA.

On Saturday, Patil met Syrian Prime Minister Naji Al Otri.

Apart from Otri, four cabinet ministers i.e. Minister of Industry Dr. Fouad Isa Al Jouni; Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources Sufian Alao; Minister of Electricity Dr. Ahmad Kussai Kayali; Minister for Presidential Affairs Mansour Azzam; and other senior officials represented the Syrian side at the meeting.

Bharatsinh Solanki, Minister of State for Power; K.E. Ismail and Vijay Bahadur Singh, Hon'ble Members of Parliament; and senior officials represented the Indian side.

During the meeting, both leaders noted that diverse and historic bilateral relations have gathered a "new momentum", particularly in trade and economic relations, which Otri termed as 'important and strategic'.

President Patil thanked the Syrian Prime Minister and the Government of Syria for the excellent arrangements and warm welcome, and conveyed Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's greetings.

Both reviewed bilateral relations, the current economic engagement and explored new areas of cooperation.

The Syrian side expressed satisfaction on the ongoing projects having India's participation and in particular mentioned the upgrading of the Tishreen Power plant by BHEL, financed through 240 million dollar line of credit and OVL's participation in exploration of hydrocarbons in Syria.

Otri invited Indian companies to participate more in the 'expanding and promising' sectors of power and hydrocarbons.

In response, Solanki conveyed India's interest in Syria's power sector and said that PSUs like NTPC and Power Grid Corporation could be potential participants.

Otri also sought Indian participation in phosphates and manufacturing of phosphate based fertilizers especially phosphoric acid.

Patil said that long-term arrangement for phosphates could be explored.

Both leaders discussed the possibility of cooperation in agriculture and animal husbandry. The Syrian side also sought our participation in their railways and metro projects.

On cooperation in information technology, Patil said that technical education and IT are key components to a knowledge economy and the IT centre for excellence in Damascus being set up by India would contribute towards it. India has strength in this sector and is willing to share it with Syria.

They also discussed regional and international issues of mutual importance particularly the Middle East Peace Process. Our President reiterated India's position of support to Palestine and to Syria on the Golan Heights.

In view of the enhanced engagement between India and Syria and the momentum generated by this visit, both leaders agreed that there should be more high-level ministerial contacts to follow up all issues discussed during the visit. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)

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