Syria's president, on an official visit to India, has emphasized the need for peace in the volatile Middle East region. His visit, the first by a Syrian president in three decades, aims at boosting trade and economic ties with India. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi.
President Bashar al-Assad said in New Delhi that the wars and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East region had, in his words, "strengthened our resolve to achieve peace and stability."
He expressed hope that two recent initiatives in the region will help advance peace.
"The entire talks between Syria and Israel and the recent Doha agreement which has provided tangible steps towards national reconciliation in Lebanon, gives us reason to be optimistic about the future of our region," he said. "Only peace and stability will ensure sustainable development and long-term prosperity for our region and the world."
President Assad was referring to the indirect peace talks that Syria opened last month with Israel after a gap of eight years, and to an agreement reached by rival Lebanese factions in May to end an 18-month long political crisis in Lebanon.
Mr. Assad also discussed the Middle East peace process with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Before coming to India, the Syrian leader expressed hope that New Delhi, which has built close ties with Israel in the past decade, will play a proactive role in peace negotiations in the Middle East.
New Delhi has emphasized that its growing friendship with Israel will not come at the expense of its traditional good relations with the Arab world.
In fact, India has been reaching out to countries like Syria and Iran as it searches for new sources of energy to feed its growing economy.
In December 2005, India and China jointly won a bid to buy Petro-Canada's stake in Syrian oil fields.
The Syrian and Indian leaders also looked at ways to increase trade.
President Assad has come with a large delegation that includes senior ministers and businessmen. He called on Indian entrepreneurs to invest in the country.
"I invite you to explore opportunities for joint ventures and other collaborations in major areas including infrastructure development, energy production, mineral processing as well as IT education and training opportunities," he said.
India and Syria signed three agreements on improving agricultural cooperation, avoidance of double taxation, and prevention of tax evasion.
The Syrian leader will also visit the Information Technology hub of Bangalore during his five-day stay in India.