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Syria important for India's energy security needs: President Patil

By Nairita Das

On Board Air India One, Nov 21 (ANI): President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, who left on nine day state visit to West Asia on Sunday, described Syria as an important country for India's energy security needs.

The Gulf region is home to over five million-strong Indian diaspora and the visit of President Patil will boost India's multi-faceted ties with the West Asia region.

President Patil will be in Syria from November 26-29 after completing her visit to the UAE from November 21-25. She will be the first ever Indian President to visit that country.

"In the second segment of my tour, I will be visiting Syria which will be the first Presidential visit from India. India and Syria enjoy traditionally friendly ties and cooperate actively in the UN and NAM," she told reporters on board Air India One.

"Syria has expressed support for India's permanent membership of the UNSC. India, too, on its part, has always supported all just Arab causes, and has consistently supported the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, which remains occupied by Israel since 1967," President Patil said.

The Indian President said her visit to Syria would focus on strengthening the economic and business aspects between the two countries.

"We seek to increase the level of our bilateral trade which stands at a modest 540 million dollar. As Syria intends to open its markets and embark on massive development, there should be plenty of opportunities for India to expand its economic links," she said.

"Syria is also important to us for our energy security. OVL already has investments there and is looking for more opportunities for oil exploration," President Patil added.

In Syria, President Patil will hold talks with her counterpart Bashar al Assad, who had paid a State Visit to India in June 2008. Delegation-level talks, which are expected to cover various aspects of bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues will follow the meeting between the presidents.

She will also meet Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri and the Speaker of the Syrian Parliament, Mahmoud Al Abrash. The President will address Indian and Syrian businessmen and launch the Syria-India Business Council.

Both sides will also explore investment opportunities in each other's country. On the regional and international front, Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) and Syria's relations with its neighbours will be important segment of President Patil's discussions.

President Patil will also visit the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Aleppo, where many Indian scientists are doing commendable work.

"I will also meet representatives of the Missionaries of Charity who are doing excellent work in Syria with older persons. I will be visiting AAMAL, a Syrian organization for the disabled managed by Asma Al Assad, the First Lady of Syria," she said. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)

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