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SANA, Syria-news, Syriandays, The Syria Report, Al Thawra, Sama-Souria on Tuesday 9 March, 2010 

The governments of Syria and Saudi Arabia, concluding the 11th Session of the Syrian-Saudi Joint Committee and the 1st Syrian-Saudi Business Forum which was held in Damascus from 6-7 March, 2010, signed 5 cooperation agreements and Memos of Understanding (MoU) in fields of customs, trade and economy aiming to develop economic cooperation between the two countries.

Prime Minister, Engineer Muhammad Naji Otri said the Forum is an opportunity for dialogue, discussion and producing ideas to enrich the process of investment and development in Syria, affirming that the government will give significant consideration to the Forum's recommendations and suggestions.

The Forum of bilateral meetings of companies from both sides organized by the Syrian Enterprise and Business Centre (SEBC), discussed the possibilities of establishing joint projects, the role of local administration in facilitating investments, means for shifting to modern agriculture, and more, in addition to reviewing the investment map, investment opportunities, the industrial cities experience in Syria, and the experiences of various Saudi companies in the field of investment.

Syrian Minister of Finance, Mohammad al-Hussein and his Saudi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Assaf signed the Minutes of Meetings (MoM) of the Syrian-Saudi Joint Committee in addition to an agreement for financing the expansion project of the al-Naseriyah Power Plant providing Syria with 525 million Saudi Riyals (RS) (140 million US Dollars) by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD).

Minister al-Hussein said there will be constant communication with the Saudi Fund for Development, which will study the possibility of financing a number of proposed development projects in Syria adding that the next session of the Syrian-Saudi Joint Committee will be held in Riyadh.
For his part, Minister al-Assaf said Saudi authorities will consider canceling entry visas for Syrian businessmen who visit Saudi Arabia.
The 1st Syrian-Saudi Businessmen Forum discussed proposed investment projects in the fields of tourism, services and transport, real-estate and development infrastructure.

Minister of Tourism, Dr Saadalla Agha al-Qalaa reviewed the new tourism investment opportunities in Syria and the country's diverse natural, historic, religious and cultural tourist components.

“There are various facilitations and exemptions provided by the Syrian government to investors in the field of tourism. He added that tourism in Syria constitutes 11% of the GDP and provides 23% of foreign currency, with actual tourists amounting to 6 million Arab, foreign and expatriate tourists in 2009”, he explained.

Secretary General of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CSCCI), Mr Fahd Al-Sultan, said that Saudi Arabia was the biggest investor in Syria with cumulative investments of around USD 1 billion. “Syria was the 21st investor in Saudi Arabia with cumulative investments of USD 598 million. Syrians own or partner in 631 projects in Saudi Arabia with total investment value stands at USD 1.8 billion. Saudi investors in Syria include the Binladin and Al-Muhaidib Group”, he added.

For his part, Minister of Transport Yarub Badr underlined the basic elements of the major proposed investment projects in the field of transport, saying that there are currently 10 investment projects proposed by the Ministry with an overall cost of 5 billion USD, including a project for a 500km highway connecting the Turkish with the Jordanian borders and a project for a 370km highway connecting the Tartous harbor with the Iraqi borders. The two projects have an estimated cost of 1.8 billion USD.

The other proposed transport projects include the Damascus Greater Interchange that surrounds Damascus city and connects all international roads, with four lanes, with an overall length of 110 km and an estimated cost of 400 million USD.

In turn, head of the Syrian-Saudi Business Council, Mr Omar Shoura reviewed the experience of the Saudi Binladin Group in Syria and the success that was achieved, calling on Saudi businessmen and investors to contribute to the proposed projects in Syria due to the country's promising investment climate.

For his part, Ministerof Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Mr Sufyan al-Alow referred to the investment opportunities in the fields of oil and gas in Syria, saying that potential oil reserves in Syria are estimated at over 43 billion barrels, while geological reserves amount to around 25 billion barrels.

The Minister added that gas reserves amount to 1,385 billion cubic meters, while gas discoveries amounted to 700 billion, 410 billion cubic meters of which are producible. He indicated that these figures prove that there are massive reserves which need to be discovered, in addition to the discoveries that require development.