Tags: Syria Latin America Cuba

Syrian Leader Forges Anti-U.S. Ties in Latin America

Thursday, 08 Jul 2010 01:27 PM


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s first Latin America tour was billed by Damascus as an effort to build economic and trade relations with countries that are home to millions of émigrés of Syrian and Lebanese origin.

But al-Assad’s main purpose last week was strengthening his nation’s strategic alliances with nations like Cuba, Argentina Brazil, and especially Venezuela, that are ruled by socialist and populist leaders openly critical of the United States and Israel, insiders say.

Indeed, any improvement in Syria’s trade relations with Latin America resulting from al-Assad’s trip was marginal at best.

Al-Assad did sign over three-dozen bilateral agreements during his visit, mainly promoting tourism, cultural exchanges and small manufacturing ventures like a Syrian olive oil plant in Venezuela.


Al-Assad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also reaffirmed plans to build a $4.7 billion refinery in Syria with a processing capacity of 140,000 barrels per day. State-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela and its Iranian and Malaysian counterparts, Petropars and Petronas, would be stakeholders in the planned refinery. However,construction of the plant will not start for at least another two years, Pdvsa officials say.


Venezuelan foreign ministry officials, meanwhile, say that President Chavez took a personal interest in helping al-Assad plan his first official trip to Latin America. Chavez has visited Syria twice, in 2006 and in 2009, and plans to make a third visit later this year. Chavez first invited al-Assad to visit Venezuela in 2006, and extended a second invitation when he traveled to Damascus in September 2009.


President Chavez sees a strong strategic alliance with Syria based on energy, security and shared opposition to Israel and the United States as vital to his efforts to create a multi-polar geopolitical alliance of countries aligned against Washington, the foreign ministry officials say.


Iran is Venezuela’s main strategic ally in the Middle East. Chavez publicly supports Iran’s nuclear program and backs calls by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to erase Israel from the map of the world. But Chavez also wants a strong strategic alliance with Damascus, which he sees as the Bolivarian Revolution’s second biggest friend in the Middle East, after Iran.

Chavez believes that a three-way alliance with Iran and Syria will enhance Venezuela’s role as a promoter of a multi-polar world in which countries opposed to the United States would band together. Chavez also believes that closer ties between Caracas and Damascus will further enhance his strategic relations with China and Russia, which have staked out major positions in Venezuela’s oil and gas industry since 2007.

Brazil and Argentina have the region’s largest populations of Syrian and Lebanese émigrés and their descendants, but al-Assad clearly felt most comfortable in Venezuela where he took turns with President Chavez bashing the US and Israel.

“We have common enemies, the Yankee Empire and the genocidal state of Israel,” Chavez said at a joint press conference in Caracas. Assad agreed that Israel is a state “based on crime, on slaughter…Israel is a state without limits.”

"Someday the genocidal state of Israel will be put in its place, in its proper place and hopefully a real democratic state will be born,” Chavez added. “But for now Israel has become the murderous arm of the Yankee Empire, threatening all of us.”

Chavez also said that the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war – must be returned to Syria. Assad condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza and said that Syria wants peace in the Mideast, but will never submit to Israel’s terms.

Assad also praised Chavez as a great Arab political leader, and proposed that Venezuela and Syria should jointly create a new multi-polar group called the “Axis of Good” in which countries that the U.S. calls evil could join forces against Washington, D.C.




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2010-27-08
Thursday, 08 Jul 2010 01:27 PM
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