BEIRUT, Nov 22 – Syria needs wheat and fuel to alleviate shortages and suffering caused by its civil war and wants to expand trade ties with Russia, the Syrian government told a high-level Russian delegation on Tuesday.
An ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia launched air strikes to support his forces against anti-government rebels last September. The conflict, which is in its sixth year, has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and caused food and fuel shortages in many areas.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told the economic and defence delegation to Damascus that Syria needed economic support in the form of wheat and fuel to ease shortages caused by the conflict and to “alleviate Syrians’ suffering”, state news agency SANA reported.
Syria would offer Russian companies priority in reconstruction contracts, Moualem also said.
The delegation was headed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the most seniorRussian official to visit Syria since Rogozin’s own visit a year ago.
The group also met Assad, SANA reported, citing Syrian Prime Minister Emad Khamis as sayingSyria also wanted also to step up political ties with Moscow.
The Syrian government has been unable to procure enough wheat from domestic farmers to satisfy the needs of the people living in its territory as wheat crops decline and conflict hinders state access to grown wheat.
Last month Syria‘s state grain buying agency Hoboob struck a deal to purchase one million tonnes of wheat from political ally Russia, covering the needs of government-controlled areas for a year.
Syria often buys wheat from Russia but this was an unusually large amount for a cheap price, and a Russian Agriculture Ministry source told Reuters last month Russia was considering a separate shipment of around 100,000 tonnes of wheat to Syria as humanitarian aid.