MOSCOW, DAMASCUS TO RESTORE FORMER LEVEL OF COOPERATION

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DAMASCUS, April 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Syria intend to increase bilateral trade turnover to $1 billion.

"This task can be achieved in a short period of time," Russian Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev told journalists in Damascus following the sessions of the Russian-Syrian commission for trade and economic and scientific-technical cooperation.

According to him, the current $218 billion trade is insufficient and does not meet the capabilities of the two countries.

The issue of Syria's debt to Russia will be finally settled next month, the Russian minister noted. "Our finance ministers are to sign the final agreement by the end of April. Technical issues are being coordinated," Yakovlev said.

Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin will arrive in Syria to sign this agreement, he reported.

Syrian Minister of Economy and Trade Amir Husni Lufti said, in turn, that Damascus intended to take all measures to raise the Russian-Syrian trade to the former level (in the early 1990s bilateral trade amounted to $1 billion).

According to Lufti, Syria is open for cooperation with Russia in different spheres, particularly, investments.

"We are to take the necessary steps to boost Russian investments in Syria," especially, in the spheres of tourism, construction of industrial facilities and oil and gas production, Lufti stressed.

In his words, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad ordered the government to provide for successful realization of these strategic projects, including oil and gas production and building of oil and gas pipelines from the Iraqi border to the Syrian coast.

Moreover, Russian companies can be involved in the construction of the Syrian sector of the Arab gas pipeline and oil processing plants on Syrian territory.

The minister also spoke about the project of creating tourist areas on the Mediterranean coast near Lattakia.

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