Russia will write off 73% of Syrian debt - Finance Minister Kudrin

MOSCOW, June 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Syria agreed on writing off 73% of the Syrian debt to Russia, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said.

Getting down to the Soviet years, the Syrian debt exceeds $14.5 billion.

Out of the remaining 27% of the debt, $1.5 billion will be coming in hard currency within the next ten years. Another $2 billion plus $100 million converted into Syrian pounds on current rates will be free for Russia to invest in the Syrian economy.

"We are waiting for offers on that score to come from Damascus," the minister said.

No prospective projects are arousing such a great Russian interest as those in the oil-and-gas sphere. "Dividends will not be coming from it quite soon. That will be in a matter of 6 or 7 years, at the quickest but the arrangement promises long-term economic and geopolitical fruit. This fruit will possibly outweigh the debt we have written off. It had long been a bad burden on our relations."

As a matter of fact, Russia and Syria were unable to develop their contacts till the debt problem was settled, the minister added.

"We could not solve the issue for close on 15 years. There was even no debt service at all. Only now that we signed an agreement with Damascus we have attained a new stage of partnership."

"We were proceeding, to an extent, from Paris Club premises concerning debts on military supplies, as the Soviet leadership was generously exporting arms to Syria. Club members write off such debts, as a rule," the finance minister said.

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