EghtesadOnline: A joint forum was held between officials and businesspeople of Iran and Syria on Tuesday in Tehran where the two sides surveyed ways of expanding bilateral economic ties.
Held at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, the meeting was attended by Syria’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Suleiman Ghanem, Secretary of Iran’s Headquarters for Expanding Economic Ties with Iraq and Syria Hassan Danaeifar, the head of Iran-Syria Economic Committee, Keyvan Kashefi, Syrian Ambassador to Iran Adnan Mahmoud and representatives of Iranian businesspeople active in the fields of oil and energy, ILNA reported.
“The Iranian government is eager to expand cooperation in different fields, particularly oil, gas and petrochemical sectors, with Syria," Danaeifar said.
He noted that trade between Iran and Syria increased by 25% during the first five months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Aug. 22) compared with the similar period of last year, Financial Tribune reported.
Ghanem said the government of Syria is willing to use Iranian experience and expertise in the reconstruction of war-torn country.
“We have made progress in this regard and talks are continuing,” he said.
The Syrian ambassador said that in rebuilding Syria, the Syrian government will give priority to Iran’s private sector.
Mahmoud noted that Iranians can increase their share in the Syrian market and projects by establishing joint companies.
Kashefi said both sides have shown eagerness in expanding commercial and economic relations.
“The Iranian private sector needs to have access to information on the Syrian market and the capabilities of Syrian companies to be able to have a successful and meaningful presence in that country. We need to be informed of investment and trade regulations there … We have taken steps toward this end by dispatching and hosting economic delegations to and from Syria,” he said.
“During the past eight months, eight delegations have been exchanged between the two sides … We will soon launch an Iranian commercial center in Damascus with the responsibility of providing logistics and counseling services. Iran’s private sector will be running this center.”
Later on Tuesday, Ghanem met with Iran’s Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Reza Rahmani.
Rahmani stressed the importance of revising tariff rates and regulations between the two sides to expand bilateral commercial relations, IRNA reported.
Ghanem pointed to cooperation between Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration Organization of Iran and the Syrian sides in carrying out studies on Syria's mineral sector as part of a memorandum of understanding previously signed between the two countries.
The Syrian minister also met with Iran’s Roads and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami on Wednesday.
“To eliminate obstacles in the field of transportation between our countries, an Iran-Iraq-Syria trilateral transportation committee has been formed, which is focused on road and rail sectors. Experts have been discussing matters in this committee and soon a meeting will be held at the ministerial level,” he said.
Ghanem noted that by boosting transportation ties, economic interactions between the three countries will multiply.
Iran, Iraq and Syria are working to link their rail networks.
According to Deputy Roads Minister Kheirollah Khademi, the contractor and investor of the 32-kilometer Shalamcheh-Basra Railroad have already been designated.
He said recently that the the construction of the $150-million railroad project was only waiting for the Iraqi side to carry out its part of the commitments, adding that Mostazafan Foundation, with years of experience in construction activities, will be responsible for funding and execution of the entire project in Iran and Iraq.
Eslami stressed that the construction of Shalamcheh-Basra Railroad is the main priority of the ministry under his watch in the current Iranian year (ending March 19, 2020).
The launch of the 32-kilometer railroad will boost Iran's exports to Iraq and from there to the countries of West Asia and North Africa.
In order to complete the Shalamcheh-Basra Railroad, the 17-kilometer Khorramshahr-Shalamcheh rail project was completed in 2011 to connect the Iranian rail network to that of Iraq, and it was decided to link up with the city of Basra.
With the start of the first government of Hassan Rouhani, the completion of Shalamcheh Railroad to Basra was considered by the government seriously to facilitate the commuting of Iranian pilgrims, especially during the Arbaeen pilgrimage season and commuters could use this rail link from Iran via Basra to Karbala and other holy cities of Iraq.
Now, Iraqi passenger and freight trains are using the rail link of Basra to Karbala and since a few years ago, Iranian pilgrims have been travelling by train from Tehran to Shalamcheh and from there after a 32-km trip by bus to Basra and by Iraqi train depart from Basra to Karbala.
The Iraqi side was to implement measures inside Iraq from Shalamcheh to Basra, but due to economic problems and a shortage of funds, the Iraqi government has so far refused to build this part of Shalamcheh’s railroad to Basra.
To complete the rail project, according to an earlier agreement reached with Iraqi authorities, Iran was about to construct a 700-meter bridge on the Arvandroud river until the railroad passes above the river and after 32 kilometers is connected to Basra Train Station.
"We will connect the Persian Gulf from Iraq to Syria and the Mediterranean via railroad and road," Iran's First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri has been quoted as saying, making reference to the construction of Shalamcheh-Basra Railroad.