Iraq and Syria have agreed to expand value of their bilateral trade to $1 billion in 2009.
Iraqi Trade Minister Abdulfalah Hassan is currently in Damascus for talks with his Syrian counterpart Amer Lutfi on ways to expedite the flow of goods between the countries.
Bilateral trade is currently worth $600 million a year and Hassan said Iraq was keen to import more from Syria.
Syria is Iraqis’ main gateway to the outside world. Damascus is most flexible than Iraq’s other neighbors in allowing Iraqis to enter and leave its territories.
More than one million Iraqi refugees live in Syria where they enjoy access to social amenities with the right to attend schools and visit public health clinics.
The U.S. has recently toned down its criticism of Syria over allegations of using its territory as a conduit for arms and foreign fighters.
It is not clear what the Syrians have done to prompt the use moderate its anti-Damascus rhetoric.
But despite the criticism the countries’ governments have proceeded ahead with attempts to improve bilateral ties.
Iran and Syria, the countries with which the U.S. is not on good terms, now top the list of Iraq’s trade partners. The exchange of goods and flow of people between Iraq and each of the two countries is the biggest among Iraq’s six neighboring states.
The exchange with the Saudis is the lowest though most of the foreign fighters entering Iraq are Saudis.
Iraq is mulling resuming oil exports via a pipeline linking Kirkuk oil fields to Syrian terminals on the Mediterranean.