Working to improve good relations between Greece and Syria

What do you aim to achieve from your visit to Greece and how do relations between Greece and Syria stand socially, economically and politically? Of course, every visit by a head of state to another country aims at improving relations between his country and the country he is visiting. But if we look at the relations between Syria and Greece for the past decades, we find that they have been very good relations, despite changes in circumstances during those decades. This might be attributed to the geographical proximity of the two countries, and also to the historical relations between them. These relations are also informed by Greek culture, which enables the Greek people to project an objective vision and perspective of the conditions in our region. Greece is now an important and active member of the European Union, and we are working on becoming partners with the European Union very soon. That is what we aspire to. We cooperated with Greece when it held the presidency of the European Union last year. Greece might be Syria’s gateway to Europe; and Syria might be Greece’s gateway to the Arab world. As I said, relations between Greece and Syria are good. But they are not as strong as what we want them to be, particularly in the economic field. There might be more cooperation in maritime transport, for instance. The cultural aspects are very important for us too. And when we talk about culture, we also imply education, including training, the media and other areas. This is something that we are interested in, particularly as we have embarked on a process of development and modernization. And I think the Greek experience in the past two decades is very important in the areas of development and modernization. Why should Greek businessmen now invest in Syria? What opportunities might they have here in Syria? We in Syria are trying to reach that stage where we can be attractive to businessmen and investors. Syria will be, in future, part of the Arab group in the economic sense. In January 2005 there will be no customs boundaries among Arab countries. So, Syria will be an entrance point to other Arab countries. Especially if we take into account the cost of transport, we find that Syria is the closest country to Greece. I have met many Greek individuals, and I feel that by nature Greek people are very close to us Syrians. This might be a factor that facilitates commercial exchange or investment between the two countries. But when we come to details, we are now passing a number of laws in order to encourage foreign investment and businessmen. For example, we issued laws two years ago regarding allowing private banks in Syria, and nowadays we have the implementation steps of this. Also we have allowed private universities in order to improve qualifications to serve the same purpose. Now we are trying for more administrative reform in order to be more affective because administrative obstacles can be as important as other factors sometimes.