Syria economy minister says “doors open” to Iranian firms

With government forces taking back large swathes of Syria from terrorists, Iran, that shore up the government in Damascus during the seven years of war, is keen to enter the country’s multibillion-dollar reconstruction market.

30 December 2018
ID : 1731
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Syria Economy Minister has invited Iranian firms to take part in reconstructing the country, a huge market worth some 400 billion dollars.

Mohammad Samer al-Khalil, who is on a working visit to Iran, says there are many opportunities for Iranian companies in reconstructing his war-torn country.

Iran and Syria have finalised the text of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that paves the way for a broader economic cooperation between the two countries that have been allies during the seven years of war against terrorists. The document will be signed next month when a high-level Iranian government delegation visits Syria. Its exact time is still to be worked out.

“The MoU facilitates the presence of Iranian firms in reconstructing Syria,” said Samer al-Khalil during a meeting with Gholam Hossein Shafei, President of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) in Tehran. Syrian ambassador to Iran Mahmoud Adnan, Iranian ambassador to Syria Javad Torkabadi, and Iranian Road and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami were also present at the meeting.

“The MoU establishes that the Iranian investment in Syria can last more than 20 years,” added the Syrian minister who stressed Damascus needs to use the Iranian companies capabilities.

“We invite Iranian firms to come to invest in Syria. The doors are open to Iranian firms. There are many investment opportunities in the country," stressed Samer al-Khalil who highlighted that Iranian firms can directly invest in Syria and help rebuild the country in cooperation with public and private sectors.

"Syrian production lines are working now. The government of President Bashar al Asad has given especial priority to companies from Iran,” reiterated Syrian ambassador to Iran, Adnan.  

It has been estimated that reconstructing the affected Syrian infrastructure costs some 200 to 400 billion dollars, according to the the Syrian official who also warned it could be higher “given that there are still many terrorists in Idlib, Aleppo and east of the Euphrates river.”

Iran has been supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad since 2011 anti-government demonstrations morphed into a deadly all-out war where many terrorist groups, backed by some Western countries as well as Persian Gulf states, took control of many parts of the country. However, Damascus government has been able to retake large swathes of the occupied territory.

With partial stability returning to the country, Iran is eager to increase its trade volume with Syria and take a big share of the country’s billion-dollar reconstruction market. However, the two countries have been slapped with economic sanctions that have made it hard for financial transactions to go through. For instance, Iran’s state-owned car manufacturer Iran Khodro says repatriating the car sales money in Syria has been “really hard”.  

Samer al-Khalil says Damascus has taken several steps to “resolve the situation soon”. He did not give further details.

Gholam Hossein Shafei, who presides over Iran private sector entity, proposed that three Iranian banks start works on facilitating financial transactions between Iran and Syria. “I propose that Bank Maskan, [also known as the Housing Bank], be used for opening credit,” said Shafei in meeting with the Syrian Economy minister.

“Bank Sanat Madan [Bank of Industry and Mine] is proposed to finance Iran’s projects in rebuilding Syria,” added the ICC president who also said “Export Development Bank of Iran can offer credits to vendors and buyers.”

He also requested Samer al-Khalil to propose three Syrian banks that will later be joined with the Islamic Development Bank to help finance trade between the two countries.

Although Syria and Iran enjoyed good economic cooperation before the war broke out in 2011, they don't have a joint chamber of commerce. Tehran and Damascus private sectors coordinate their trade through a joint committee. “We hope this committee will be a prelude to a joint chamber of commerce between Iran and Syria,” said Shafei.

Tehran and Damascus signed a free trade agreement before 2011 and it came into effect one month before the Syrian war. The deal allowed Iranian commodities entre the country under a small 4% customs tariff. But, the conflict left the agreement nearly unused. Majority of Iranian goods make their way to Syria via sea and a small portion are exported through Iraq. 

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