Syria for India’s help to resolve Middle East crisis

June 18th, 2008 - 8:07 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 18 (IANS) Syria Wednesday sought India’s participation to resolve the Palestinian and other contentious issues in the Middle East when President Bashar al-Assad met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here for over an hour. This was one the main areas of discussion between the Syrian president, who is on a five-day visit to India, and the Indian prime minister at the delegation level talks at the Hyderabad House.

“Acknowledging India’s good relations with the Arab world and its support to the Palestinian and other Arab causes, President Bashar al-Assad sought India’s role in the Middle East,” a senior Indian official who was part of the talks told IANS.

Manmohan Singh, in turn, talked about how crucial the Middle East and the neighbouring region was to India with more than five million Indians living there. The region is also the country’s main energy source and supply route, the official added.

“The talks between the two leaders were very good, of high quality and very serious,” was how the official described the dialogue.

They discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations with special emphasis on the need to strengthen economic and trade ties. The Iraq conflict and the Turkey-initiated peace talks between Syria and Israel were also discussed.

“Both leaders agreed that terrorism born out of extremism was a cause for concern that needs to be combated effectively,” the official said.

India and Syria signed three economic agreements after the talks — for avoidance of double taxation, bilateral investment and a work plan for cooperation in agriculture and allied sectors.

Al-Assad arrived here Tuesday evening - the first Syrian head of state to visit India after a gap of 30 years.

After his ceremonial welcome at the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan Wednesday morning, he said Syria had a lot of expectations from a “rising India” and he looked forward to increasing trade with the country.

“We have a lot of things to talk about. There are a lot of expectations from a rising India,” the Syrian leader told reporters after the guard of honour.

The Syrian president also addressed a business luncheon meeting organised by India’s top three chambers of commerce and industry and called for strengthening economic and trade ties.

He met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee as well as Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and opposition leader L.K. Advani.

The Syrian president, who is accompanied by his wife Asma, four senior ministers and a host of other officials, will also visit Agra and Bangalore.

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