Meetings of the Syrian-Turkish joint committee are due to start Monday under the co-chairmanship of the minister of Economy, Muhammad Imadi, and the Turkish minister of state for economic affairs Rajab Onal, who is scheduled to arrive in Damascus later in the day, the Syrian Times said Monday.
It added that the Turkish minister's is aimed at boosting trade between the two countries, which came to the verge of war two years ago over Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.
AFP said the visit of Recep Onal is regarded as a sign of further bilateral improvement, which began after Ocalan left Damascus in late 1998 and Syria pledged to stop sheltering his rebels following Turkish threats of military action.
"We want to cement the warming political ties with economic cooperation," Onal told reporters before leaving, Turkish News Agency Anatolia said, quoted by AFP.
Onal, whose official program in Damascus starts Monday, is scheduled to have talks with the Syrian ministers of finance, natural resources, agriculture, energy and oil.
Bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Syria stood at some 617 million dollars in 1998, according to Turkish figures, said AFP.
"There is a significant commercial potential with Syria. We can bring bilateral trade volume up to one billion dollars," Onal said.
During Onal's visit, a fair of Turkish export goods will be opened in Damascus.
"We have the intention of converting Turkey into the economic center of the Middle East," the minister said.
The Syrian Times added quoted Onal as saying that the Syrian oil and natural gas resources as well as electricity power plants near the Turkish border "could constitute areas of cooperation."
In March, Turkish and Syrian diplomats had talks in Damascus to "determine the principles upon which bilateral relations will be conducted in the future."
Turkey and Syria are also bitterly at odds over sharing the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris, which originate in Turkey and flow down to drought-stricken Syria and Iraq - (Several Sources)
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