Tehran-Damascus sign economic MOU

After three days of negotiations, Iran and Syria wound up the eighth gathering of the Economic Follow-Up and Cooperation Development Committee in Tehran by signing an MOU.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) reported that the agreement was signed between the Iranian Minister of Housing and Urban Development Ali Nikzad and the Syrian Minister of Economy and Trade Amer Husni Lutfi.

Nikzad stated that the annual trade between Iran and Syria is on the rise and has reached about $330 million, adding that, imports from Syria were only about $16 million.

He said that 36 Iranian companies were operating in Syria, further adding that the Islamic Republic of Iran has over $1.6 billion worth of technical and engineering services projects in hand in the Arab republic.

These projects include the construction of a cement factory, a car manufacturing plant, 10 silos, two power plants, tunnels, water canals, bridges, refinery boilers, a glass factory, manufacturing and repairing a variety of wagons, water and waste water projects, steel, color industry, pharmaceuticals and exporting electric transformer and posts comprise some of the projects.         

Nikzad said that the establishment of a joint bank, exhibition cooperation, healthcare, agriculture, housing and urbanization, tourism and private sectors cooperation were negotiated in the meeting.

The Syrian minister said that we must make more efforts to augment economic relations to the same high level as political ties.

He said that the two countries cooperation is based on the views of the high-ranking leaders of the two countries and mutual benefit, adding that, they talked about organizing the activities of numerous Iranian companies operating in Syria.

In recent years, Syria and Iran have made plans to enhance their already significant financial cooperation.

In January 2008, Iranian Press TV reported that the two countries planned to speed up the construction of a joint oil refinery.

The $2.6 billion contract, which involved Malaysia and Venezuela as well as the two Middle East countries, will have the capacity to refine 140,000 barrels a day, noting this would provide Iran with the ability to refine much more of its own crude oil, giving Tehran greater flexibility by weaning it off refined oil imports from neighboring states.

On January 10 Iranian Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Seyed Shamseddin Hosseini called for speeding up the establishment of the proposed Iran-Syria joint bank.

In a meeting with Husni Lutfi in Tehran the Iranian official said the potential exists to boost the two-way trade.

Hosseini added setting up a joint bank could significantly give rise to the bilateral economic relations, the Mehr News Agency reported.

He also suggested establishing joint insurance companies, financial institutes and credit fund to further expand economic cooperation.

In a separate meeting between Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi and the Syrian minister, Rahimi expressed the hope that the setup of a joint Iranian-Syrian bank would be finalized soon.

"We hope to finalize the issue in my upcoming visit to Syria," Rahimi said Saturday, Press TV reported.

Tehran and Damascus agreed in 2008 on setting up a joint bank in the Syrian capital, with an initial capitalization of $30 million.

The agreement was reached by Iran's former Housing and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Saeedi-Kia and Syrian Minister of Economy and Trade, Amer Husni Lutfi, and the governor of the Central Bank of Syria, Adib Mayaleh.

Saeedi-Kia said that some 49 percent of the shares of the joint bank will belong to Iran's Bank Saderat and 51 percent to Syria.

He noted that the Iran-Syria bank will provide Iranian investors, businesspersons and pilgrims with various services.

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