Syria is one of the leading countries of the Middle East judging by its political role in the region as well as by its economic and human potential, said Russian Foreign Ministry official spokesman Alexander Yakovenko with regard to the visit by Syrian Vice President Abdel-Khalim Khaddam to Russia starting on Tuesday.
The Russian high-ranking diplomat stressed that "the Arab world and the whole Muslim world listen to the voice of Damascus." Yakovenko believes that "Syria is no doubt a key country in the cause of comprehensive Middle East settlement." He recalled that Russo-Syrian relations had a long history, "had been friendly and characterised by a high degree of mutual understanding for decades." Over 200 important industrial facilities have been constructed in Syria with Russia's assistance, primarily, in the spheres of energy, transport, oil extracting and processing. In 2001, trade turnover between Russia and Syria was $163 million, Yakovenko said.