If you go to Damascus, you will see surprising things on the roads of the Syrian capital: Kijang Innova and Avanza vehicles.“Yes it is true. We have been importing these cars from Indonesia in recent years. Syrians like them,” Syrian Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires Bassam Alkhatib told The Jakarta Post in a briefing in Jakarta on Thursday.
The briefing was organized in connection with Syrian National Day, which fell on April 17, 2011. The small Syrian community in Indonesia celebrated the event modestly on Sunday.
In an effort to give new shape to its 61-year-old relations with Indonesia, Syria is ready to sign more than a dozen bilateral agreements.
“We will soon sign 16 draft agreements in various fields, including the much-awaited agreement on migrant workers, to strengthen our relationship with Indonesia,” Alkhatib said.
Around 30,000 Indonesians, most of them without legal papers, work mainly in the informal sector in Syria. The agreement on migrant workers, if signed, will provide legal protection to Indonesian workers.
On the economic side, of late Syrian businesspeople are increasingly looking at Indonesia. According to Alkhatib, Syria is also buying rubber, palm oil, coffee, tea, furniture, footwear and automobile spare parts from Indonesia.
According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), bilateral trade between Syria and Indonesia was US$76 million in 2010.
Syria, Alkhatib continued, intends to give special concessions to Indonesian companies wanting to invest in Syria.
“During the recent visit of our Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Dardari to Jakarta in March, it was announced that Damascus would give projects to Indonesian companies without tender,” Alkha-tib said.
Syria is planning to launch infrastructure projects worth some $18 billion over the next four years.
Indonesia responded positively to the offer.
“I don’t want to lose an opportunity [like this],” Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa said.