DAMASCUS, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Syria signed an agreement on the settlement of the Syrian debt to Russia in Damascus on Sunday.The agreement was signed by Russian and Syrian Finance Ministers Alexei Kudrin and Muhammad al-Husayn."We have finally settled the Syrian debt. It gives us new possibilities for cooperation and major investments into Syria's economy," Kudrin said.According to him, Russia is interested in the success of these investments. "We can develop our traditional relations established in the Soviet period. It is very important that Syrian President Bashar al-Asad supported our initiatives," the Russian minister said.
The signing of the agreement on the settlement of the Syrian debt is a major event in bilateral relations, he added. "I am happy that the agreement has been signed. We have settled the debt problem which is crucial for our partnership," Kudrin said.
Kudrin and al-Husayn signed the protocol on the main parameters of the Syrian debt settlement on January 25, 2005 during the Syrian president's visit to Russia.
The Russian government approved the draft agreement on Thursday. Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Alexei Kudrin said that Syria's overall debt to the USSR amounted to $14.55 billion, with Syria's counterclaims accounting for $1.15 billion.
"The overall amount of Syria's debt has been set at $13.4 billion," Kudrin said,
According to him, Syria would commence repayment of debt from July 1, 2005. The minister explained that of the total debt amount of $3.6 billion Syria would repay $1.5 billion in hard currency within the subsequent 10 years, with the remaining part of $2.1 billion to be converted into the Syrian currency and paid out immediately. Kudrin said that the latter part of the Syrian debt would be used for purchase of Syrian goods as well as for Russian investments in Syrian economy. Syria is ready to provide additional guarantees offsetting commercial and political risks involved, Kudrin added.
The agreement on Syria's debt settlement is subject to mandatory ratification in both houses of the Russian parliament.