India, Syria hold talks on situation in the war-torn country

India, Syria hold talks on situation in the war-torn country

India, Syria hold talks on situation in the war-torn country

India and Syria today held wide- ranging talks, focusing largely on the internal situation in the war-torn country and the UN-backed peace process aimed at ending the strife which has claimed lives of over 2.5 lakh people in the last five years.

Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Walid Al Moualem, during the talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, appreciated India for its support to the people of Syria and its position in finding a solution to the civil war.

Swaraj conveyed to Moualem, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs, that India was sending medicines worth USD 1 million to Syria soon. India will announce further assistance to the country during a conference on Syria in London on February 4.

She also sought Syria's help in ascertaining status of 39 Indians who were taken hostage by ISIS militants from Iraqi city of Mosul in June 2014. Moualem assured Swaraj that he will use his sources in Iraq to know whereabouts of the Indians.

The Syrian Deputy Prime Minister met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval last evening during which challenge of combating terrorism, particularly to deal with ISIS, is understood to have figured.

Moualem, who visited Russia and China before arriving here yesterday, gave a detailed exposition of how Russian air strikes have weakened the capabilities of ISIS in Syria as well as about the UN-backed peace initiative.

"The Syrian Deputy Prime Minister appreciated India for its support to people of Syria," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. India has been consistently maintaining that a solution to the conflict must be found through a Syrian-led peace initiative.

Russia has been carrying out air strikes in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad since September, targeting the terror outfit ISIS which has seized vast swathes of land in that country.

India has been supportive of the Russian strikes maintaining that terror groups must be dealt with effectively.

The peace talks are slated for later this month and Moualem has already said that Syria was ready to participate in it.

The US, the UK and France are pressing for the ouster of the Syrian President to have a peaceful resolution of the conflict but Russia and China are against the move.

During the talks, the Syrian side sought help from India in the form of supply of food and medicine.

It also sought early completion of Tishreen power project being implemented by Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd (BEHL). As part of Line of Credit, India has already given USD 100 million out of USD 240 million for the plant.

The Indian side said it was ready to complete the project if Syria can give assurance of security. BHEL and Syrian Ministry of Electricity are negotiating to resume the project.

The Syrian side also requested India to complete remaining work at Hama Steel plant which is being set up by India at a cost of USD 25 million. 95 per cent of the work of the project has been completed.

India conveyed to Syria that it will be happy to hand it over soon.
India and Syria have friendly political relations. India's support for the Palestinian cause and for the return of the occupied Golan Heights to Syria is appreciated by Syrians.

President Assad had visited India in June 2008 while then President Prathibha Patil had visited Syria in November 2010.

Last month, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing a peace process in Syria to end the civil war through talks between the government and the opposition, but the draft is silent on the role of Assad in a political transition.

It called for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the UN to establish within six months "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance", setting a schedule for drafting a new constitution, with free and fair elections to be held within 18 months under UN supervision with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to vote.