Iraqi Vice-President Arrives in Damascus to Set up Free Trade Zone
Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan began a groundbreaking two-day visit to Damascus Monday, aimed at setting up a free trade zone between Iraq and Syria, reported AFP.
Ramadan arrived with a ministerial delegation at Damascus international airport where he was met by Prime Minister, Mohammed Mustapha Miro, and foreign minister Farouq Shara, said the agency.
Ramadan is due to sign an economic agreement, similar to the one signed with Egypt earlier in the month, in accordance with the declaration made last week by Tareq Aziz, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister.
The Iraqi Syrian trade volume is $500 million, and is on the increase after bilateral ties witnessed considerable improvement.
Ramadan is the highest-ranking Iraqi officials to visit Syria since 1997, when the two countries started re-establishing relations, broken off in 1980 over Syria's support for Iran in its war with Iraq.
Both countries negotiated Sunday a plan to share the water of the Euphrates, according to officials at the Syrian ministry of irrigation.
The officials told Albawaba.com that Iraqi minister of irrigation, Taha Atrash, discussed during his current visit to Baghdad the details of a project for permanent split of the river’s water to replace the present agreement.
Iraqi oil minister, Amer Rasheed, has recently announced that Iraq and Syria have agreed to build a new pipeline to replace the existing worn out one.
The minister was quoted in the press as saying the new line will have a capacity of 4.1 million barrels a day. The old pipeline, which extends from Karkok in the north of Iraq and the Syrian port of Banias, went out of service in 1982 after Damascus stood behind Iran in its war against Iraq.
According to Al Jomhoriyya daily on Saturday, Rasheed said the new pipeline will be laid in two stages: the first in Syria, while making do with the old part in the Iraqi territories, and then the Iraqi part will be built “when the financial status of Iraq improves.”
Damascus has also pushed for a lifting of the 10-year-old embargo on Iraq, and a dozen Syrian planes have defied international restrictions by flying into Baghdad since Saddam International Airport's reopening in August -- Albawaba.com
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