Russian delegation in Syria to talk reconstruction


Damascus (AFP)

A Russian business delegation was in Damascus on Monday for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on "major economic projects" for investment and reconstruction in the war-scarred country.

The Syrian regime's main ally in its fight against rebel groups and jihadists, Moscow looks set to take the lion's share of contracts to rebuild.

"Major Russian investment projects in Syria have been discussed" for reconstruction, the official SANA news agency quoted Assad as saying, referring to better security in some parts of the country.

Such projects would focus on transport, commerce and energy, "including oil, gas, phosphates, electricity and petrochemical industries".

"Syria is a country with unlimited riches," the news agency RIA Novosti quoted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as saying.

"Russian companies have the moral right to develop major economic projects here."

Rogozin was in the Syrian capital leading the delegation of the heads of "large Russian firms", SANA said.

"Today, the Syrian authorities want to work with Russia, and Russia alone, to re-establish all of the country's energy capabilities," he said.

Rogozin said both nations sought to create a joint venture to exploit a large deposit of phosphates.

Moscow is also planning to use Syrian ports to import Russian wheat to Syria, Iraq and other neighbouring states.

The World Bank estimates the cost of war-related losses in Syria at $226 billion (191 billion euros), the equivalent of four times the country's pre-war gross domestic product.

Triggered in 2011 by the repression of peaceful anti-regime demonstrations, the conflict in Syria has become ever more complex with the involvement of foreign states and jihadist groups.

The war has killed more than 340,000 people and displaced millions.