Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez went for an official two-day visit to Syria on October to bolster bilateral relations. During the visit, an agreement was reached to build a refinery in Syria with a capacity of 140,000 oil barrels, with the joint investment of Iran and Malaysia. In late June, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had visited Venezuela as part of a tour that included Cuba, Brazil and Argentina, with the aim of building a "Caracas-Damascus axis".

Last August, CNN reported that "scheduled flights [from Venezuela] to Damascus and Tehran were cited by the U.S. State Department.… as a cause for concern, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, raised questions about the flights in an interview last week with Voice of America. According to the State Department's latest country report on terrorism, which covers 2009, 'President [Hugo] Chavez continued to strengthen Venezuela's relationship with state sponsor of terrorism Iran. Iran and Venezuela continued weekly Iran Airlines flights connecting Tehran and Damascus with Caracas'."

During Chavez's recent trip to Syria, Assad stressed the need of a direct air route between Damascus and Caracas. According to local news, however, Assad justified the need for a direct route also by saying that recently Syria sent 20 tons of olive oil – not really a significant amount - to Venezuela, even though the two presidents want to cooperate not only in the oil field but also in olive oil sector, by creating a joint venture to process and distribute "the best olive oil in the world."

Assad and Chavez have also signed an act of integration for Syria to become an observing nation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). Full members of the integration organization are Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Nicaragua, Dominica; Venezuela. Uruguay and Paraguay are observing countries.

From the Syrian and Venezuelan Press:

  • Assad: "Venezuela's support to the Arab issues is continuous"
  • Direct air route with Damascus-Caracas
  • The Arab-Latin American Summit will be held in Peru in February
  • Chavez commented "We should speed up the birth of the new world order"
  • Assad: "It is very important to understand these organizations [ALBA, MERCOSUR, UNASUR] … [in order to] accurately outline the Arab relationship with Latin America as we want it"
  • South American community of Syrians as a bridge between Caracas and Damascus
  • Chavez supports Syria's right to restore the Golan; Syria joins ALBA
  • Damascus and Caracas to set up an oil refinery in Syria
  • Chavez saluted the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence; Chavez: "We do not establish relations only to keep alive, but also to speed up the fall of the hegemony of imperialism and give birth to a new balanced world"
  • Chavez: The refinery will be inaugurated within two years
  • Chavez: Important to unify the forces of Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba and Bolivia
  • There is a "clear political will" to speed up agreements

October 24, 2010

Assad: "Venezuela's support to the Arab issues is continuous"

President Bashar al-Assad held talks with President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chavez. The meeting was attended by Syrian vice-President Farouk al-Shara, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, Presidential Political and Media Advisor Buthaina Shaaban, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Sufian al-Alaw and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro. […]

[…] President Bashar al-Assad said that Venezuela's support to the Arab issues is continuous every time and everywhere. […] President al-Assad congratulated President Chavez and the Venezuelan United Socialist Party on winning the latest legislative elections, thanking President Chavez for his continuous support to the Arab issues.

"Syria's relations with Venezuela consolidate its ties with South America and vice versa," said President al-Assad. President al-Assad added that his meetings with President Chavez as well as the meetings between both countries' officials in various sectors aim at building infrastructure for the bilateral relations, which are still in progress.

Direct air route with Damascus-Caracas

"Lots of efforts are needed to set up strong ground for a serious launch of relations to help carry out the agreements signed between the two sides," the President added.

"For example, air flights and the maritime transportation have taken long time… the relation cannot be launched without connection lines… the geographic distance is big between the two regions… it is right that we have strong infrastructure of the Venezuelans and the Syrian and Arab communities, but throughout decades the relation remained as it was before without factors of connection," President al-Assad said.

The President added that we have talked about olive oil during the last visit and we have sent the first 20 tons to Venezuela, and 3 days ago we have sent the second 40 tons, but until now there is no direct air route.

The Arab-Latin American Summit will be held in Peru in February

"We have concentrated our talks on the bilateral relations… we have signed cooperation agreements in the fields of oil, tourism and the route between Damascus and Caracas… we have talked about the Arab-Latin American Summit that will be held in Peru in the coming February and the necessity of preparing for this summit," the President said.

President al-Assad said "Israel is not ready and unwilling to offer anything to the peace process. It has been following a certain tactic to persuade the world that the process is unconvincing and doomed to failure."

Chavez commented: "We should speed up the birth of the new world order"

He added that Israel is trying to persuade the world that it wants peace and that the Arab side is the one opposing it. "Israel continues its systematic killing of the Palestinians in Gaza and all the Palestinian territories, perpetrating aggression against the Palestinians in the 1948 territories," the President said.

The President went on to say that "The Israeli siege on Gaza is continuous, and judazing Jerusalem is a racist process that cannot be separated from Israel's latest racist and fascist laws, which stipulate for a 'Jewish state' and the 'oath of loyalty' to the Jewish state."

President al-Assad said "The current world order is figuratively called 'order,' but it is rather disorder as said on many previous occasions. This world order is governed by power and domination instead of justice and principles."

President Chavez commented, "We should speed up the birth of the new world order which is being born today to reach a multilateral and balanced world in terms of economic, cultural, political and military sectors."

"Thanks to the efforts of millions of people and leaders like the brave and wise President al-Assad, we will reach this new world in the coming few years and we shall forget all about the old one which is built on domination and repression."

Assad: "It is very important to understand these organizations [ALBA, MERCOSUR, UNASUR] … [in order to] accurately outline the Arab relationship with Latin America as we want it"

President al-Assad continued, "For the relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean to succeed, it is not enough to view the transformations taking place in that region from afar, or through the governments which definitely express the aspirations of the Latin American peoples through more independence and freedom from hegemony, but through blocs that started to spread in Latin America, one of which is ALBA organization, which represents a particular political trend, or a bloc of a number of countries bound, in addition to economy, by a certain political approach."

"There is Mercosur organization which started few years ago by few Latin American countries. It is also a form of economic cooperation. There is also UNASUR which brings together all South American countries," President al-Assad added.

President al-Assad continued, "It is very important to understand these organizations in order to understand the context of the transformation in Latin America on the official and public levels. If we understand this transformation, we can accurately outline the Arab relationship with Latin America as we want it." […]

South American community of Syrians as a bridge between Caracas and Damascus

President al-Assad said, "Naturally, we have a South American community of Syrian, Syrian-Lebanese or Arab origins. It is self-evident that this community is a bridge for the two countries' relationship as it uses sea lanes and airlines, but usually the sea lanes are used most when it comes to goods."

President Chavez added, "We are setting up an alliance with Syria built on amity between the Syrian and Venezuelan peoples," stressing that great things are built only on emotional and spiritual bases. President al-Assad stressed that "Syria shares Venezuela's rejection of any intervention in the internal affairs of our countries and regions as well as the other neighboring and surrounding countries."

The President said "It is difficult to separate the bilateral relationship from the relationship between the two regions due to the existing exchange and integration as the link between the bilateral and regional sides in this relationship is directly but not inversely proportional."

Chavez supports Syria's right to restore the Golan; Syria joins ALBA

For his part, President Chavez stressed Venezuela's support to Syria's right to restore the occupied Golan, adding that "I hope the day will come when I will be visiting Golan after its liberation."

"Syria's joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) as a guest member will help bolster the relationship regionally…and signing the regional alliance today is inseparable from our relations with Venezuela," President al-Assad said. […]

President al-Assad added, "The problem for the developing countries is that most of their economies were not built on their relationships with other countries with similar circumstances, policies, interests and aspirations, but rather on an unbalanced relationship; exporting to importing countries; strong to weak countries; rich to less rich countries, or maybe colonizing to colonized countries. When we enhance our relationships through a strong economic network of relations, it is for us a safety network."

President al-Assad put the tour of President Chavez in the framework of constructing and forming this necessary network; describing it as "a network of economic and political safety, among other fields"

Damascus and Caracas to set up an oil refinery in Syria

President al-Assad added, "The refinery is one of very small projects in comparison with the overall picture I am talking about. This network strengthens our economy in the face of the world economic crisis. All in all, it is but a stone in a big building we are constructing every day."

President Chavez said his country signed an agreement with Syria to supply Syria with diesel oil annually, referring to the agreement signed between the two countries to set up an oil refinery in Syria.

President Chavez considered that launching the Syrian-Venezuelan Trade Council will help speed up and increase trade exchange between Syria, Venezuela, the ALBA and the Caribbean countries, adding that Syria could be a bridge for delivering Venezuelan goods to the region.

Chavez saluted the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence; Chavez: "We do not establish relations only to keep alive, but also to speed up the fall of the hegemony of imperialism and give birth to a new balanced world"

President al-Assad added: "We talked with President Chavez about cocoa. We do not know that the Venezuelan cocoa is one of the best in the world. It is cheaper than other brands of cocoa. As President Chavez mentioned, we have an advanced chocolate industry, but we did not import from Venezuela. This issue started recently, and there is no marketing process between the two countries, so we have to introduce to each other the materials produced locally and later we move to other stages in order to be methodological in approaching this relation and at the same time to be realistic and move away from big dreams."

President Chavez saluted the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence and dignity stressing his support of the Arab peoples fighting for their freedom. President Chavez went on saying, "We do not establish relations only to keep alive, but also to speed up the fall of the hegemony of imperialism and give birth to a new balanced world."

He added, "We are walking in another road different from the one that the US wanted to impose on us after the fall of the Soviet Union. The US wanted to impose on us a un-polar world."

President Chavez added, "We have signed six agreements, and we have to translate these agreements into successful projects on ground. A memo of understanding on fair exchange and economic relations and a cooperation agreement in the fields of education and marine transport were signed. There is an agreement on combating the trafficking and smuggling of drugs and an agreement to establish a fund for investment and trade as well as a project to establish a joint bank in the future. We have to get independent from the dictatorship of the US dollar and the International Monetary Fund."

Chavez: The refinery will be inaugurated within two years

President Chavez said, "The best olive oil in the world exists in Syria. It is not only for Venezuela, but also for various Latin American countries. There are trade agreements to export from Venezuela to Syria because we do not want to stick to exporting only petroleum."

The Venezuelan President said, "We agreed with Syria and Russia to export coffee. We produce Venezuelan cocoa, beef, mango, avocado, banana, pineapple and other agricultural products." He pointed out that Syria is specialized in industrializing cocoa and chocolate, expressing gratitude for President al-Assad and Syria for helping solve problems which faced Venezuela in distributing products and lands.

He referred to signing an agreement on providing Syria with diesel oil annually and an agreement on establishing an oil refinery in Syria, affirming Venezuela's commitment to start this project provided that the capacity of the refinery is 140,000 barrels of Syrian-Venezuelan crude oil in Homs Province. This refinery would be inaugurated within two years, President Chavez declared.

Chavez: Important to unify the forces of Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba and Bolivia

During the visit, a number of agreements were signed including a political declaration on the partnership agreement with ALBA countries, cooperation in the fields of education, maritime transport, misuse and the penalties related to drugs, establishing a fund to finance Syrian- Venezuelan trade and investments and a memo of understanding on exhibitions of rapprochement and integration between the two countries.

The President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez announced the launch of the Syrian-Venezuelan Council with the participation of scores of businessmen and senior officials from the two countries at Sheraton Hotel. President Chavez stressed that this joint trade council is extremely important to boost relations, calling for activating this council as quickly as possible through the participation of businessmen and investors.

He pointed out to the importance of unifying the forces of Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba and Bolivia to confront the common challenges and threats of the world imperialism. Venezuelan President said: "Today, a new multi-polar world is born, and we have to unify our efforts to overcome all difficulties." […] DP-News (Syria)

October 22, 2010

There is a "clear political will" to speed up agreements

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived to Syria […] for a visit to Damascus to strengthen commercial and political relations with the Middle Eastern nation. According to the Syrian Ambassador to Venezuela Ghassan Abbas, the visit of the President Chavez to Syria represents progress in the strategic alliance between the two countries, pursuing common objectives.

Abbas underscored that both Syria and Venezuela fight for the sovereignty of their peoples, and for integration, unity and a pluri-polar world. "Indeed, the struggle for the unity of Arab countries is very important to us, as is President Chavez's fight to become sovereign and independent".

Furthermore, the diplomat pointed out that the strong position adopted by Venezuela in the face of aggressions from the United States and Israel against the Arab countries has been a key factor that led to the reinforcement of Venezuela-Syria relations.

There is a clear political will to speed up the agreements reached between the two countries to bring the benefits from this alliance to the people of Venezuela and Syria, commented the ambassador. […] Correo del Orinoco (Venezuela)

October 21, 2010

Venezuela and Syria endorse an agreement to build a refinery with a refining capacity of 140,000 oil barrels in Syria

It is expected that they [Venezuela and Syria] will endorse an agreement to build a refinery with a refining capacity of 140,000 oil barrels in Syria, with the joint investment of Iran and Malaysia.

[Energy and Oil Minister Rafael] Ramirez, who is also the President of the Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA, highlighted the importance of this project, because Syria is an observer country of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and it has a production capacity of 450,000 oil barrels per day, but that is not enough to satisfy its domestic market.

Venezuelan Energy and Oil Minister stated that the technical groups will evaluate the terms on which the refinery will be constructed and proceed to the next step regarding investments.

During the visit of President Chavez to Iran […] a letter of commitment was endorsed for Iran's contribution to this project, as reported the Communication and Information Ministry through a press release.

Likewise, the Science, Technologies and Intermediate Industries Minister Ricardo Menendez commented in Syria that a group of experts will visit Caracas in the next days to hold meetings with governmental employees developing nanotechnology projects.

The Housing and Habitat Minister Ricardo Molina emphasized the importance of exchanging experiences with Syria about housing industrialization to provide answers to Venezuela's deficit.

Molina deemed essential the transfer of technology to build industrial factories to prefabricate housing parts in Venezuela as well as Syrian experts' assistance in the area.

The Ambassador of Syria to Caracas Ghassan Abbas explained before traveling to Damascus that President Chavez and his Syrian counterpart Al-Assad are going to sign an agreement, among other accords, for the creation of a joint fund with a starting capital of 100 million dollars.

During the visit of Syrian President to Venezuela last June, the two presidents reached agreements in diverse areas, such as sowing 6,000 hectares of cotton and raw materials for olive oil in the Latin American country.

The diplomat commented that a group of Syrian experts has already visited Venezuela to foster this plan.

Further, the Ambassador of Venezuela to Syria, Imad Saab Saab, said that in this third visit of Chavez to Damascus, they will also talk about the Syria's participation as an observer in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba).

Chavez's last visit to Damascus took place in 2009. There are over 700,000 Syrians living in Venezuela and more than 60,000 Syrian-Venezuelan citizens. Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN, Venezuela)

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