Syria Joins the Belt and Road Initiative

At an event in Damascus last week, Syria announced its participation in the Belt and Road Initiative through a memorandum of understanding signed by Syrian Planning and International Cooperation Authority Chair Fadi al-Khalil and the Chinese Ambassador to Syria, Feng Biao. The agreement follows Xi Jinping’s phone call with Syrian President Assad in November, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip to Damascus last summer.

“Syria was one of the foundational nations of the ancient Silk Road, especially the cities of Aleppo and Palmyra,” said Khalil, who added that the agreement would bring about “the strengthening of the joint cooperation within the relations of our two friendly countries.”

While Western U.S. sanctions and military operations have devastated the nation, Syria has continued to enjoy good relations with China, which has provided investment and humanitarian assistance. As centralized state sovereignty over Syrian territory strengthens, more opportunities for collaboration are certain to develop.

In 2015 already, as the war was still raging in the country, EIR correspondent for South-West Asia Hussein Askary worked out a proposal for the reconstruction of Syria in the context of connecting the country by land and by sea to the New Silk Road. The proposal, titled Operation Phoenix, calls for rebuilding the Syrian economy as well as its beautiful, historic cities, by integrating the country into the New Silk Road perspective (cf. Extending the New Silk Road to West Asia and Africa).

This perspective is now coming closer to becoming reality. In fact, South-West Asia is increasingly a key area for Chinese diplomacy. Just after Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Africa (cf. previous news item), he held meetings Jan. 10-16 in Wuxi with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Turkey, and Iran as well as with the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In an interview with Chinese media, he said that China would now be playing a more prominent role in mediating peace in the region.

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