Belarus and Syria: Reviving a friendship

Belorussian officials visit Syria

On the 8th and 9th of  February, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makey officially visited the Syrian Arab Republic, where he met with the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad and Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi.

Points of discussion:

The points of discussion between the two nations focused on a number of key issues including state and prospects of bilateral relations in the political, economic, trade, scientific-technical and humanitarian spheres, the issues of mutual support in the international arena including the support for the Assad government in their conflict with ISIL.

According to the envoy it is in both Belarus and Syria’s best interests to revive and continue bilateral financial trade and co-operation.

Syria has always been an important partner to Belarus in the middle east and in the international arena. President Alexander Lukashenko The first official trip was in 1998 where he met with former President Hafez al-Assad and in 2003 with his son, President Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Presidential website, both governments find bi-partisan support on current political events around the globe, and each have similar views on how to further improve the dynamics for bilateral cooperation in  finance, trade and security.

The Assad government has been an important partner with Belarus for many years now, the most important visit in recent times was his official visit to Minsk in 2010.

The Belarusian leader named Hafez Assad – father of the respectable guest, as his “first friend in the Muslim world in general and in the East.” Lukashenko also pitched an idea to Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves to realize trilateral projects in the economic sphere. Foreign Ministers after working through this issue, the Heads of states were to meet in Damascus for approval of specific plans.

The apotheosis of both the visit and the Belarusian-Syrian relations as a whole has become a joint declaration. This extensive document noted that the bilateral cooperation has been a significant boost, and confirms its intention to bring relations to the level of strategic partnership.

Belarusian authorities have expressed support for the aspirations of Syria to form a free trade zone with the countries of the Customs Union, praised the “initiative on establishing strategic cooperation between Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.”

And there were no disagreements over the Middle East problems. Parties expressed the need for the Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and other occupied Arab territories, the creation of an independent Palestinian state, have expressed concern about the continuing occupation of Arab territories. Finally, it was confirmed Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Because of the ideological proximity Minsk and Damascus constantly support each other in international organizations. However, mainly when we had to fend off accusations of the UN Council on Human Rights.

Meanwhile quite rapidly develop economic ties: the bilateral trade has grown from 2.1 million. Dollars in 1999 to 85.5 million. In 2008. Although two years later it was reduced almost by half – to 47 million. Among Middle Eastern partners of Belarus Damascus remained in the foreground.


Is mission impossible?

However, the international crisis over Syria and a number of other circumstances have led to the fact that almost all the points mentioned declaration lost meaning. In particular, the dashed hopes for strategic cooperation with Turkey and Venezuela. Official contacts have been curtailed; turnover in 2013 fell to 9 million. Dollars.

However, Belarus is the only country in the CSTO, which supported the position of Russia, voted against UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Syrian authorities. As a consequence, the media began to discuss the possibility of a lively Minsk asylum Bashar al-Assad in the case of his escape from the country.

Fortunately, there were, as such developments are unlikely to contribute to the improvement of relations between Belarus and the West. And without that the United States still do not remove sanctions against “Belvneshpromservice” introduced in 2012 on charges of supplying Damascus fuses for bombs used against the rebels.

In general, talks about the Belarusian-Syrian Military-Technical Cooperation (MTC) are long. Even during the first visit Lukashenko discussed such topics as repair in Belarus planes and tanks of Soviet production, training of technical staff of the Syrian armed forces, the sale of optical and electronic security for weapons. And the UN Register of Conventional Arms means, for example, that in 2008 Belarus supplied to Syria 33 MiG-23. This caused serious concern in the West. However, concrete evidence of violations was not dealt with.

In addition, according to Belarusian experts, the volume of the PTS was quite overrated.

And in the current environment in Damascus hardly have the resources for large-scale purchases. In the end, return to the previous level of interaction is quite problematic.


About Aruzhan Zhuman (3 Articles)
I teach English. In my free time I work as a translator. I enjoy painting and travelling.

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