Posted by Joshua on Thursday, December 25th, 2008
Very best to all Syria Comment readers for the New Year. Best, Joshua
Latest census in Syria: Population stands at 22.331 million. The work force is around 4.9 million, of which 1.38 million employed with the government.. [Thanks Idaf]
مكتب الإحصاءالسوري ” الرجال أكثر من النساء في سوريا”
كشف مكتب الإحصاء السوري أن عدد الذكور في سوريا أكثر من عدد الإناث مشيرا الى أن نسبة الإناث قد انخفضت .
ووفقا للمجموعة الإحصائية التي أصدرها المكتب لعام 2007 فان عدد سكان البلاد بلغ 331، 22 مليون نسمة، 11،220 منهم ذكور فيما بلغ عدد الإناث 11،111
وذكرت صحيفة الثورة أن نسبة الإناث في سوريا انخفضت بنسبة 1% قياسا بالذكور حيث أصبح كل 100 أنثى لكل 101 ذكر.
وقالت الإحصائية ان أكثر من 600 ألف حالة ولادة عام2007، بينها نحو 147 ألف حالة في محافظة حلب (شمال البلاد)
بينما بلغت معدلات الزواج تسجيل137 ألف حالة زواج بمعدل 11 حالة لكل ألف من السكان ، وبلغت قوة العمل السورية 4،945 ملايين عامل منهم 1،379 مليون عامل في القطاع الحكومي .
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Turkish counterpart Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday, telling him that “Whatever we don’t do today in the Middle East, we may not be able to achieve tomorrow. We must advance toward direct peace talks between Israel and Syria as soon as possible.”…
Tzipi Livni on Tuesday said that if Israel signs a peace deal with Syria, Damascus must take concrete steps to ensure the accord is worth more than the paper it is written on. ….
Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu, … flanked by two Likud leaders who are closely identified with security issues, former Israel Defense Force chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon and Maj. Gen. (res.) Yossi Peled, added, “We have come here to openly say that a government I will head will remain on the Golan Heights and will protect it as a strategic asset.
“One doesn’t have to be a military expert to understand from here why the 1967 border is not a defensive line from this direction,” Ya’alon said.
Peled, who was the head of the Northern Command during his army career, said, “they are trying to sell us in Turkey. The Golan is the oxygen of the Jewish state, and to discuss it is potential suicide for the state of Israel.”
Asad: Syria would eventually embark on direct peace talks with Israel, but they must be based on U.N. Security Council resolutions, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday.
“It is essential to apply resolutions by the U.N. Security Council” on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Assad said on Monday.
In exchange for peace Syria is demanding the return of the entire Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in 1981 in a move unrecognized by the international community.
But Israel has baulked at this, since it would mean returning land right down to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, its main source of fresh water.
Assad also stressed the role of Europe in the peace process, saying: “Israel-Europe relations must be linked to Israels acceptance of U.N. resolutions.”
Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 call on Israel to withdraw from Arab territory it captured in the 1967 war.
Ehud Barak, Defense Minister and Labor leader, says:
“I am continuing the policy set by [David] Ben Gurion, which states that Israel has no interest in wars. If the quiet continues, there will be quiet. If the calm breaks, we will operate.” He added that he was currently working together with Israel Defense Forces Chief Gabi Ashkenazi and Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin to advance talks with Syria. “I am taking action to advance peace in the real world, not in an imaginary one,” Barak said. “I am active more than anyone else in trying to reach peace with Syria. The director of Military Intelligence, the chief of staff and I, in contrast to others, are pushing for a settlement with the Syrians. We are the ones who are saying that we must not wait, that we must move ahead, take risks.” Barak also said that the recent remarks by feted author Amos Oz that the Labor Party has ended its historical role in Israeli politics were unfair and incorrect. “What he said hurt me. I think there was something unfair in what he said.”
A New Partner In Syria?
David Ignatius, 24 December 2008, The Washington Post
President Bashar al-Assad says he doesn’t want to send a message to Barack Obama, exactly, but to express a three-part hope for the incoming administration’s Middle East policy:
First, he hopes Obama won’t start “another war anywhere in the world, especially not in the Middle East.” And he trusts that the doctrine of “preemptive war” will end when George W. Bush leaves office.
Second, Assad said, “We would like to see this new administration sincerely involved in the peace process.” He hopes that Obama will back Syria’s indirect negotiations with Israel, and he urges the new administration to pursue “the Lebanese track and the Palestinian track, as well.”
Asked whether he would mind if the Syrian track went first (a sequence that has worried some Syrians who prefer the ideological purity of following the Palestinians), Assad answered: “Of course not. Each track will help the other.”
Third, he says he wants Syria and the United States to work together to stabilize Iraq as American troops begin to leave. “We can’t turn the clock back,” Assad said. “The war happened. Now we have to talk about the future. We have to forge a process, a political vision and a timetable for withdrawal.”
In all three “hopes,” Assad seemed to be looking for a new start with Obama after years of chilly relations with Bush. Assad said he knew little about Obama or his policies but has heard that he is more in contact with ordinary people than Bush has been, which, Assad contended, would give Obama a better understanding of America.
Assad spoke in English during the 30-minute interview Monday. He was accompanied only by his political and media adviser Bouthaina Shaaban. This time, in contrast to my interview with him in 2003 , when Assad was often stiff and doctrinaire, he was loose and informal, breaking several times into laughter.
Assad’s easy demeanor suggested that he’s more firmly in charge now. The Bush administration’s attempt to isolate Syria has failed, even in the judgment of senior White House officials. That leaves Assad in the catbird seat, courted by European and Arab nations and conducting back-channel talks through Turkey with his erstwhile enemy Israel.
Asked, for example, about reports that Saudi Arabia is seeking to improve its relations with Damascus because it sees U.S. engagement with Syria ahead and fears that “the train may be leaving the station,” Assad laughed.
“Maybe it has already left the station,” he said. But he vows that he is ready to receive any emissaries. “I have no problem with the Saudis. We would like good relations with every country in this region.”
Assad said that he is ready to move to direct talks with Israel as soon as he receives clarification on two points: One, he wants assurance that the Israelis will withdraw fully from the Golan Heights. To clarify that issue, he sent a “borders document” to the Israelis this month that highlights some points along the pre-1967 border. As of Monday, he said, he hadn’t received an Israeli response. His second condition for direct talks is that the United States join as a sponsor.
On the crucial question of Syria’s future relations with Iran, Assad was noncommittal. He said the relationship with Iran wasn’t about the “kind of statehood” Syria has or its cultural affinities but about protecting Syrian interests against hostile neighbors. “It’s about who plays a role in this region, who supports my rights,” he said. “It’s not that complicated.”
Asked whether Syria was prepared to restrain Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Lebanon, Assad said this was a matter the Israelis should sort out in separate negotiations with the Lebanese. Indeed, he promoted the idea of the other negotiating tracks — which would draw in, at least indirectly, Hezbollah and Hamas.
“The longer the border, the bigger the peace,” Assad said. “Hezbollah is on the Lebanese border, not Syrian. Hamas is on the Palestinian border. . . . They should look at those other tracks. They should be comprehensive. If you want peace, you need three peace treaties, on three tracks.”
A relaxed Assad clearly believes that Syria is emerging from its pariah status. An international tribunal is still scheduled to meet in The Hague to weigh Syria’s alleged role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. But in the meantime, Assad is receiving a stream of visiting diplomats. He looks like a ready partner for Obama’s diplomacy, but a cautious one — waiting to see what’s on offer before he shows more of his hand.
“The “borders” issue in the Golan Heights has become a non-issue. This is not the ’60s. Israel’s survival does not depend on the possession of a few hundred square kilometers of stony, scruffy land. Technology and capabilities have moved on. The military realities that the Likudniks like to talk about render such consideration “oldspeak,” mere excuses for not giving up a square centimeter of the others side(s) land,”
“Bashar Assad’s Syria has sought accommodation with the US for the last several years. This was firmly rejected by the Bush people because it was and is neocon/Likud doctrine that Syria must be subdued and eviscerated, not accommodated. Assad wants to be let out of the “doghouse.” He wants there to be a new beginning for the Middle East, one that a modern man like him can accept. This is our chance and the biggest opportunity the Israelis have ever had. Can the Israelis and their American “friends” rise to the occasion. I doubt it. They are so paralyzed by fear that their options are self limiting. We should hope for the best.”
Syrian President Bashar Assad is pointing responsibility for recent terror attacks in Syria at Saudi Arabia and its Lebanese allies – and not without justification.
Israeli Author Oz Says Barak Too Easy on Settlers: Haaretz, 2008-12-23
Budget Deficit at 9 percent of GDP in 2009: Syria’s budget will post a deficit of USD 4.8 billion next year or 9 percent of its GDP. [More at Syria Report]
Oil and Gas: Oil Subsidies Bill at USD 6.9 billion at End September 2008: Mahrukat posted a record deficit of USD 6.9 billion in the first nine months of the year according to figures from the company. [More at Syria Report]
Damascus Bourse Signs With Market Evolution, Al Thawra Says
2008-12-23, By Nadim Issa Dec. 23 (Bloomberg)
— The Damascus Securities Exchange signed a contract with Bahamas-based Market Evolution Software products Limited to install electronic systems necessary to operate the bourse in the first quarter of 2009, Al Thawra reported, without saying where it got the information.
The company, which installed equipments for the Macedonia Stock Exchange and the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, will provide the trading, settlement, monitoring and display systems for the Syrian bourse, the Syrian newspaper reported.
It is finally end of life for Syrian Airlines’ Jubmo and Caravelle planes: [Thanks Alex]
نتهاء خدمة خمس طائرات على الخطوط السورية دون اتخاذ أي إجراء
نوبلزنيوز: خرجت خمس طائرات من الخدمة على الخطوط السورية للطيران, بسبب انتهاء صلاحيتها للسفر على الخطوط الطويلة, وهي من أنواع الجامبو والبيونغ والثويو/1540/ والثويو/132/ وطائرة كرفيل قديمة جدا.
وتؤكد المعلومات الفنية ان مؤسسة الطيران لم تحرك ساكنا بخصوص هذه الطائرات, التي بقيت جاثمة في أرض المطار, رغم إمكان صلاحيتها للعمل على الخطوط الداخلية المتوسطة أو حتى لأشياء اخرى, كأن ينسق بعضها ويرسل الى معمل حديد حماه, وذلك عن طريق تحديد لجنة فنية متخصصة من مؤسسة الطيران العربية السورية, وحسب ما ورد في صحيفة الثورة في عددها الصادر اليوم, فإن المؤسسة الطيران حتى الآن لم تقم بتشكيل أي لجنة
Oil Price Decline Threatens Syrian Refining Plan, Alao Says
By Maher Chmaytelli
Bloomberg, 17 December 2008
Syria may not be able to increase oil production and refining capacity as planned as the decline
in petroleum prices threatens investments, Syrian Petroleum Minister Sufian al-Alao said.
“We are concerned,” Alao said today in an interview in Oran, Algeria, at a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in which Syria holds an observer status. “The private companies are reviewing their projects in light of the price decline.”
Syria has in the past two years announced plans to build three refineries that will add 350,000 barrels a day to current capacity of 220,000 barrels a day. The nation has also invited bids for licenses to drill offshore as it seeks to stem a decline in crude oil production.
Kuwait’s Noor Financial Investment KSCC is re-assessing its plan to build a 140,000 barrel-a-day refinery, Alao said. The other two refinery projects “look secure, as they are being done with state companies,” he said, referring to a 140,000 barrel-a-day plant planned with Petroleos de Venezuela S.A, the Iranian Oil Co. and Malaysia’s Al-Bukhari Group, and a 70,000-barrel-a-day facility planned with China National PetroleumCorp.
The refineries will allow Syria to import and process Iraqi crude, offsetting its own declining supply, when they come on stream in 2012. Iraq’s oil exports through Syria, which had contravened United Nations sanctions, stopped in 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Syria imports about 60,000 to 70,000 barrels a day of gasoil, a fuel used for heating and transportation that accounts for half its consumption of refined products. The country’s electricity consumption is increasing an annual 7 percent as its population and economy grow.
Syria’s crude production has fallen to about 380,000 barrels a day, from a peak of 600,000 barrels a day in 1996, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy.
Syria not to join OPEC: oil minister
Xinhua, 17 December 2008
Syrian Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources Sufian Allaw Wednesday said that his country will not join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ( OPEC) due to its small oil output and declining exports.
“Syria will not join OPEC due to its small output and declining oil exports,” the minister told Xinhua on the sidelines of the 151st extraordinary ministerial meeting in the northwestern Algerian city of Oran.
He declined to give the “fair prices” what his country expects in the international markets, saying “each country has its own favorable prices.”
Syria has a daily output of some 400,000 barrels and exports half of the output.
Earlier in the day, Russia, the biggest non-OPEC oil exporter, also ruled out the possibility of joining the oil cartel, according to Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky.
The OPEC comprises Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, but Indonesia has suspended membership and officially leaves the cartel at the end of 2008.
Ancient cemetery found in Syria
UPI, 18 December 2008
Archaeologists have dug up a large ancient cemetery in the middle of the Syrian desert, providing a glimpse into life and death in the 19th century B.C. The necropolis discovered near the Syrian oasis of Palmyra about 125 miles northeast of Damascus, has at least 30 large burial mounds, ANSA reported Wednesday….
”Future excavations of the burial mounds will undoubtedly reveal information of crucial importance.”
The team of Italian and German experts, which concluded its 10th annual excavation in central Syria in late November, found the elaborate cemetery along a stretch of an old Roman road marked with stones bearing Latin inscriptions with the name of the Emperor Aurelius, who put down a rebellion led by the Palmyran queen Zenobia in 272 A.D. The discovery includes a Roman staging post that was perfectly preserved by a heavy layer of sand.