Saudi Arabia, Syria call for a unity govt in Lebanon


“With regard to Lebanon, the two sides emphasized the importance of achieving the unity and stability of the country through the strengthening of consensus among its groups and speeding up the formation of a national unity government,” said a joint communiqué issued at the conclusion of the state visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to Damascus.

The communiqué urged joint Arab and Islamic action to stop the continuous Israeli aggression on the Palestinians. The two sides stressed the need to lift the Israeli siege on Al-Aqsa Mosque and confront the measures taken by Israel to Judaize Jerusalem, it added.

Saudi Arabia and Syria stressed the need for ensuring the unity and Arab identity of Iraq and opposed interference in its internal affairs. They supported Yemen’s efforts to end an insurgency that has been threatening the country’s unity and security.

King Abdullah returned to Riyadh on Thursday at the end of a two-day visit. He held a final round of talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad before leaving Damascus, with discussions focusing on major regional and international issues.

“King Abdullah received President Assad at his residence in Ash-Shaab Palace in Damascus on Thursday and the two leaders completed their discussions, which they began Wednesday, on a number of topics,” the Saudi Press Agency said, adding that the talks were attended by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the king’s adviser.

The two countries agreed to strengthen political, cultural and media cooperation as well as hold a meeting of the Saudi-Syrian Joint Commission as early as possible. They also agreed to expand economic, commercial, customs and investment cooperation, the communiqué added.

A meeting of the Saudi-Syrian Businessmen’s Forum will be held in the first quarter of next year to boost joint ventures while the capital of the Saudi-Syrian Company for Industrial and Agricultural Investment will be increased.

King Abdullah arrived in Damascus on Wednesday at the head of a high-level delegation in what analysts said a historic visit by the Saudi leader to improve ties. The visit saw the signing of an agreement between the two countries to prevent double taxation and avoid tax evasion.

Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, who signed the accord with his Syrian counterpart Muhammad Al-Hussein, said it would reduce tax burden on investors and businessmen in both countries.

Al-Assaf held a meeting with Al-Hussein on Thursday to discuss prospects of expanding economic cooperation between the two countries. “The two ministers agreed on studying the issue of fees imposed on Saudi and Syrian trucks that carry goods to both countries or pass by them,” said an official statement after the meeting.

Al-Assaf and Al-Hussein also explored prospects of cooperation in banking and insurance including establishment of a Saudi-Syrian bank and a joint insurance firm in Syria. They said the volume of trade, now only $ 2 billion a year, would begin growing in the coming days.

“We have decided to remove the hurdles to commercial exchanges, notably the taxes recently imposed by Syria on products exported to Saudi Arabia,” such as olive oil and ceramics, Hussein was quoted as saying. For his part, Al-Assaf spoke of Abdullah’s visit, his first after becoming the king in 2005, as “very important for strengthening economic relations.” The two leaders underlined their “commitment to pursue coordination and consultations at all levels on matters that interest both peoples,” the Syrian news agency SANA said, adding that they wanted to “remove the obstacles that have hindered their relations.” Analysts said the royal visit would have great impact on the region’s peace and stability. “It was a positive visit and the talks were held in an amiable atmosphere. Both the Syrian and Saudi sides expressed their satisfaction with the talks,” said Waddah Abd-Rabbo, the editor of the semi-official Syrian paper Al-Watan.

“The Saudi monarch’s visit is expected to open up new horizons between these two influential countries, who play an important role in the region and on the international level,” Abd-Rabbo said.

Assad’s political and media adviser Bouthaina Shaaban said Syrian-Saudi relations were making excellent progress. “There is a strong need to create an Arab atmosphere that can utilize the Arab capabilities to raise the voice of Arabs on regional and international forums.”


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