Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz arrived in Damascus at the end of September for several days of talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and others within the Syrian government to improve relations and foster trade partnerships.
Aziz, the most senior Iraqi official to visit the country since Bashar al-Assad became president in July, said that: “I am pleased with the outcome of the visit.” Aziz’s visit prompted Syria on September 26th to call for the removal of U.N. sanctions against Iraq. Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said after meeting with Aziz that: “We believe the preservation of sanctions is not justified because the people of Iraq are those who are mainly suffering as a result. Syria wants to ease the agonies of the Iraqi people.” He indicated that Damascus had expressed this position during recent meetings of the U.N. and the Arab League.
Syria’s public support for the easing of sanctions reflects improving ties between the neighbors after two decades of animosity. Syria aligned itself with Tehran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and was part of the U.S.-led multinational force responsible for expelling Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991. The past three years have seen Damascus reopening its borders with Baghdad, and work has commenced to refurbish and reopen the Iraqi Airways office to allow Iraqi passengers to travel through Syrian airports. Officials have also indicated that the two countries plan to double trade exchanges to $1 billion through the oil-for-food program, while both sides have worked to repair their shared pipeline that was closed in 1980. - ( oilnavigator )