Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal left Damascus yesterday after a brief visit to Syria as head of the Saudi delegation to the 9th session of the Saudi-Syrian Joint Committee. During the visit, he and Minister of Finance and National Economy Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf were received by President of Syria Bashar Al-Assad.
At the session, the agreement on a free-trade zone between the two countries was signed by Dr. Al-Assaf and his Syrian counterpart Dr. Muhammad Alamadi. In addition, the two sides drafted a bilateral agreement on organizing overland transport of passengers and goods, agreed on a schedule for implementation of cultural and informational programs, and considered ways of exchanging experiences in educational matters.
Endorsing the session, Prince Saud Al-Faisal and his Syrian counterpart Farouq Al-Shara'a underlined the importance of continued commercial exchanges and joint ventures, mutual trading, and regular meetings of the Committee. They praised the bilateral agreement on a duty-free zone, with mutual exemption from customs and other taxes for all products and goods.
Addressing the session yesterday, Prince Saud Al-Faisal noted that economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria had over the past few years witnessed significant growth. Noting that the volume of trade had tripled from 1994 to 1999, he expressed the hope for bilateral relations to be further cemented, as is evidenced by the signing of the duty-free zone accord.
Referring to the situation in the occupied Arab territories, Prince Saud Al-Faisal declared that its deterioration is due to the continuation of the savage aggression by the occupying Israeli forces against the Palestinian people. He stressed the importance of extending support to the Palestinian struggle and called on the international community to take appropriate measures to protect the Palestinians. He reiterated the Kingdom's inalienable stance on the issue of Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as an Arab and Islamic city, a matter that is not subject to any compromise. Affirming that Al-Quds constitutes an indivisible part of the occupied Arab territories, he declared that a just and comprehensive peace should be based on the principles of the Madrid conference, the United Nations resolutions, and the principle of land for peace. He stressed the Kingdom's support for Syria's ongoing efforts for the liberation of the Golan Heights from the yoke of the Israeli occupation. Expressing the hope that the forthcoming Arab Summit would yield positive results, he reiterated the capability of the Arabs to confront all challenges.
At a press conference, Prince Saud Al-Faisal responded to a question on Iraqi threats to the Kingdom and to Kuwait by saying he did not want to say anything to jeopardize the discussion of the issue at the upcoming Arab Summit.
Meanwhile, in Jeddah today, Minister of Information Dr. Fouad Al-Farsi and his Syrian counterpart Adnan Omran signed an executive program for information cooperation between their respective ministries. The program includes broadening the scope of cooperation between the media organs in the two countries as well as exchange of journalists.