Opening Remarks at a Meeting with Vice-President Abdel-Halim Khaddam of Syria 2003-01-15 00:00:00 The Kremlin, Moscow Vladimir Putin: Mr Vice-President. We are very pleased to have this opportunity to receive you in Moscow. Russia and Syria are bound by long-standing and close relations. One can say that in practically all areas we had privileged relations. Now too, when Syria is reaching new vistas in its development, when relations are developing in a complicated way in the Middle East, on the Palestinian-Israeli track and around Iraq, Russian-Syrian relations, without doubt, are very significant, very important for us, in order to maintain the dialogue, in order to pursue the line which meets our interests. We attach great importance to the development of economic ties with Syria as well. Before 1992, the volume of trade between us was very large, around one billion US dollars. Then we went through a period of considerable decline; now the trade turnover has not only stabilised but also has a tendency for continuous growth. But it is perfectly clear that its level is thus far insufficient. Our specialists have concrete plans, promising large-scale projects are in the making, including in the field of military technological cooperation which has always constituted a significant part of our collaboration, along with contacts at a high political level. The coordination of our efforts on the international scene – this was the topic with which I started – has always been very significant and stable. I believe that your visit, Mr Vice-President, provides good momentum for the development of relations between our two countries in all directions. In Moscow, you will have many meetings, including with the federal Government, with ministers and with the heads of various agencies. I wish you success in your work. Abdel-Halim Haddam: Thank you very much, Mr President for those warm words. I would like to say how satisfied I am with the visit to Moscow and meeting with you. We in Syria seek to inject a new warmth in the relations between Syria and Russia. Undoubtedly cooperation between our two countries will serve the interests of both sides. As you have stressed, Mr President, the relations between our countries have been profound and many-sided. These relations served not only the interests of the two countries, but contributed greatly to the easing of international tensions. We believe that our relations must be restored to their former level, and President Asad has asked me to convey his message of hope for more intensive contacts between us in all areas to you. We believe that cooperation between our two countries has a very big future. The underlying reasons for the development of relations between our countries remain unchanged. They make it necessary to bring back the warmth into these relations. We are grateful for the economic and humanitarian assistance Russia has given to Syria. In former times, many Syrians studied at Russian higher education institutions and underwent political and military training here. We in Syria believe that the time has come to put Russian-Syrian relations on the right track. President Asad attaches great importance to these relations and to the meeting with the Russian President in order to discuss these relations in the future. I am glad to convey his message to you. I am full of hope that this visit to Moscow will mark the start of improvement, progress and development of these relations and will mark a step in the preparation of President Asad’s visit to Moscow.