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Map of Syria

Map of Syria.
flag of the Lebanon.

Syria

Bilateral relationship

Relations between New Zealand and Syria have been limited.  Up until December 2006 there was no formal bilateral relationship.  The accreditation of HE Mr Tammam Sulaiman as a non-resident Ambassador to New Zealand (based in Canberra) on 5 December 2006 marked a new point in relations between our countries. New Zealand is not at present accredited to Syria.

There are modest levels of bilateral trade, mostly in New Zealand’s favour. While traditional commodities (mainly dairy and wool) comprise the bulk of our exports to Syria, there is potential for diversification. The ICT sector in particular offers prospects for growth in both the public and private sectors. In 2004, the then-Minister for Information and Communications Technology, the Hon Paul Swain, led a delegation of New Zealand ICT sector leaders on a visit to Syria. The visit paved the way for NZ businesses including Tait Communications, Argent, Metra and 4RF to take advantage of commercial opportunities there.

As part of New Zealand’s on-going commitment to peacekeeping in the region, we have contributed to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) for more than 50 years. There are currently 8 NZ personnel serving with UNTSO, based in Israel, Lebanon and Syria, including the Chief of Operations. A New Zealander, Major General Clive Lilley, finished his appointment as UNTSO Chief of Staff at the end of November 2007. 

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Key facts

Geography/Demographics

Official Name - Syrian Arab Republic
Land Area - 185,180 sq km (includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli occupied territory)
Population - 19.9 million
Capital City - Damascus
Religion - Predominantly Islam (74% Sunni Muslim, but constitutionally a socialist republic)
Language - Arabic
Currency - Syrian Pound
Exchange rate - US$ 1 = Sú48.10

Political

Political system - Socialist Republic
National government - National Progressive Front (NPF)
National legislature - Unicameral 250- member Majlis al-Shaab (People's Assembly) directly elected for a four-year term
Last election - 2007 (legislative), 2007 (presidential)
Next election due - 2011/14 (legislative/presidential)
Head of State - President Bashar al-Assad (elected unopposed for a seven-year term in 2007)
Head of Government - Prime Minister Mohammed Naji al-Otari
Key Ministers - Foreign Affairs: Walid Mualem; Defence: Hassan Ali Turkmani; Communications and Technology:Imad Abdel-Ghani Sabbouni
Main Political parties - The ruling NPF is made up of seven parties: Arab Socialist Baath Party; Arab Socialist Party; Arab Socialist Unionist Party; Communist Party; Syrian Arab Socialist Party; Unionist Socialist Democratic Party; Union Socialist Party

Economic

GDP - US$ 41.47 billion (2007 EIU estimate)
Real GDP growth - 6 (2007 EIU estimate)
Exports - US$ 11.72 billion (2007 EIU estimate)
Imports - US$ 10.5 billion (2007 EIU estimate)
Current account balance - US$312 million (2007 EIU estimate)
Inflation - 12.2% (2007 EIU estimate)
Gross external debt - US$ 6.5 billion (2007 EIU estimate)

New Zealand Trade

NZ Exports (FOB) - NZ$ 111.8 million (year end to December 2008)
Main Exports - Milk and cream (86%); Butter (5%); cheese and curd (2%)
NZ Imports (CIF) - NZ$ 12.3 million (year end to December 2008)
Main Imports - petroleum oils (97%)

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Visits

The Minister for Information and Communications Technology, Hon Paul Swain, visited Syria in May 2004, accompanied by an ICT delegation.

Travel advice

The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Syria [external link].

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Page last updated: Monday, 09 December 2013 13:00 NZDT