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Minister denies Syria prefers Turkish firms to those of Iran

Syria’s Economy and Foreign Trade Mohammad Samer al-Khalil

Syria’s Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Mohammad Samer al-Khalil has denied reports his country prefers Turkish suppliers of engineering and technical services to those from Iran.

“It’s seven years now that any trade with Turkey has been outlawed by Syria,” Khalil told Iran’s ILNA news agency on Wednesday.

The minister, who is in Iran for economic and trade talks as part of a high-ranking Syrian delegation, was reacting to reports that Syria prefers to use the services of Turkish and Western companies in its reconstruction projects now that it is emerging from nearly a decade of war with militants.

He said any Turkish-made equipment or machinery being used in Syrian projects have been smuggled across borders with Turkey where the Syrian government has yet to take full control of the security situation.

Khalil has met senior government officials in Iran since early on Tuesday when he started negotiating for joint projects that can increase the level of economic and energy cooperation between Damascus and Tehran.

He said in a meeting with Hojattollah Abdolmaleki, the Iranian official responsible for free trade zones (FTZs), that Syria has proposed three locations, including its Mediterranean port of Latakia, for setting up a joint FTZ with Iran.

In another meeting on Tuesday, Khalil secured the approval of Iran’s Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian for increased presence of Iranian energy engineering firms in Syria’s electricity sector, especially for reconstruction of power plants damaged in the war with militants.

Iran’s ISNA news agency also said on a Wednesday report that Iran’s two leading carmakers the IKCO and Saipa are planning a return to the Syrian market as part of agreements reached with the Syrian delegation visiting Tehran.

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