Sushma Swaraj cancels Syria visit

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The Syria trip was tied to the trip to Beirut in Lebanon, which too has been cancelled.

India on Saturday cancelled the scheduled visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Syria, where she was expected to participate in the biggest industrial fair aimed at reconstruction of the war-ravaged country. The visit was in line with India’s stated objective of helping the country which has been a traditional friend of India.

“External Affairs Minister’s visit to Syria has been deferred due to the prevailing situation in that country. Fresh dates will be decided in mutual consultation with the Syrian side,” a spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said announcing the move. Syria is carrying out the last major campaign against rebels and terrorists in Idlib where Russia and Iran are reportedly helping the government forces. The Syria trip was tied to the trip to Beirut in Lebanon, which too has been cancelled.

Syrian sources said Ms. Swaraj was also scheduled to hold a meeting with President Bashar Al Assad and other ministers of his government and interact with Indian and Syrian companies. Despite the ongoing military campaign in Idlib, they said that there are no threats in large parts of Syria that have been secured from terror strikes.

“More than 40 Indian companies have reached Damascus and they are part of more than one thousand companies from different parts of the world that are participating in the trade fair,” a Syrian source said, emphasising that Syria is attracting funds for reconstruction as terrorism is practically over in most parts of the country.

Earlier, the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) had announced that Ms. Swaraj would be holding discussion with corporates during her stay in the Syrian capital on September 11 on the sidelines of the Damascus International Fair.

CII had informed its members that Syria was now ready for business. “The overall security situation in Syria has drastically improved during the last couple of months. Terrorism and militancy is on the decline in Syria. Life in Damascus and other cities has returned to normalcy, many security check-points have disappeared and various late-night cafes/restaurants can be seen doing business to their full capacities,” a programme advisory issued by the CII had mentioned.

Though officials refused to confirm, reports suggest that there are fears of attracting Western sanctions for companies that are willing to do business in Syria. According to the United Nations, the war in Syria that began in 2012 has cost hundreds of billions of dollars, but reconstruction of the country is difficult without a global participation. Russia, China and Iran have already invested in Syria but sanctions backed by the Western powers are still in force against the Bashar Al Assad government. The West has made removal of the sanctions conditional on a political solution.

However, the government of President Assad has an upper hand as most of the country barring Idlib is reportedly freed of terrorists and rebels.

Source: The Hindu

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