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News // Russia

Medvedev to discuss military supplies and gas projects during its visit in Syria

11 May 2010 , 10:36Reuters1482


President Dmitry Medvedev will discuss military supplies and natural gas projects on his first visit to Syria, days after the United States decided to renew sanctions against the country for support of terrorist groups. Arms supplies may be discussed during Medvedev's two-day visit, which began Monday, a senior Kremlin official told reporters. No weapons deals will be signed during the visit, he said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. Gazprom is looking to supply gas from Syria to Lebanon via the Pan Arabian gas pipeline, part of which is constructed by Stroitransgaz, the Kremlin official said. Stroitransgaz, in which an influential oil trader Gennady Timchenko is a major shareholder, took part in the construction of the first and second stages of the pipeline. "Gazprom is ready to look into possibilities of taking part in oil and gas project in Syria if it's highly economically viable," the Kremlin official said. He added that Gazprom's subsidiary Georesurs was set to participate in tenders to explore oil wells in Syria.


Russia's relations with Syria, formerly one of the major Soviet allies in the Middle East, have strengthened and trade between the two countries quadrupled from 2005 to 2008 to almost $2 billion, or 20 percent of Russia's total volume with Arab countries. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has visited Russia three times, most recently in August 2008 when he said he supported Russia's position in its war with Georgia. Russia wants to boost trade and investment as well as energy cooperation, Medvedev said in an article in Syrian newspaper Al Watan. "For this we have a few possibilities," Medvedev told the newspaper. "In recent years we have managed to advance significantly interaction in oil, gas and electricity" as well as irrigation. Facilities constructed with Soviet or Russian assistance account for up to 20 percent of Syria's power generation and a quarter of the country's oil sector, according to the Kremlin.


Medvedev noted in the article that Stroitransgaz last November completed the first part of the Syrian section in the Pan Arabian gas pipeline. Stroitransgaz last year also commissioned a gas processing plant in central Syria, and it is building another such plant 75 kilometers south of the city of Al-Rakka. Tatneft last month started commercial production at the South Kishma oil field in Syria. Medvedev's visit to Damascus came after U.S. President Barack Obama on May 3 renewed U.S. sanctions on Syria, citing its support for terrorist groups and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.


Syria's actions and policies "pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," Obama said in a notice sent to Congress and released by the White House. The sanctions were originally imposed in 2004 by then-President George W. Bush. Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the Obama administration's policy of engaging with Syria against criticism from Congress after allegations that Syria transferred missiles to Hezbollah terrorists. Israeli President Shimon Peres' office announced Sunday that Medvedev had agreed to deliver an Israeli message to Syria that Israel wants peace but Syria must stop alleged weapons transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Peres and Medvedev met in Moscow during a Victory Day ceremony.  

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