The Syria of today offers tourists as much a cultural experience as a sightseeing one, where ancient history provides a fascinating backdrop to everyday life on the streets                          





Canada's links with Syria go back over a century, to the arrival of the first Syrian (and Lebanese) immigrants in 1882, who thereby constitute one of the first Arab communities now settled in Canada. Diplomatic relations were established in 1965. Canada opened an embassy in Damascus in 1985 and Syria opened its embassy in Ottawa in 1999.

Political relations acquired momentum in recent years with a series of bilateral visits, by former Foreign Ministers Lloyd Axworthy (November 1997 and June 2000) and John Manley (October 2001) and by Defence Minister Art Eggleton (September 1999). Prime Minister Chrétien visited Damascus during his tour of the Middle East in April 2000. Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara'a visited Ottawa in June 1999, when he the Syrian Embassy.

Political and economic reforms in Syria, now being undertaken, offer the prospect of enhanced political dialogue and cultural cooperation, as well as an improved climate for trade and investment. Canada and Syria are expanding their cultural and academic activities. Projects include the Canadian Education Resource Centres at the Universities of Damascus and Aleppo and the mounting of a major exhibition of Syrian artifacts, "Syria : Land of Civilizations", at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City in May 2000 and at the Provincial Museum of Alberta in February 2001. Laval University has signed an education cooperation agreement with the University of Damascus. The Embassy celebrated in October 2001 the 10th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run in Damascus that saw a record 2,220 participants and raised C$62,000 in support of Cancer Research in Canada and the Syrian Cancer Registry. The second annual Terry Fox run held in Aleppo raised C$15, 000 in support of the Syrian Cancer Society.


From 1995 to 2001, Canadian exports to Syria have remained constant at C$21.0 million and consisted of wood poles, aluminium, mechanical and electrical equipment, and textiles. During the same period, imports from Syria rose sharply from C$27.0 million to C$61.0 million and consisted of mostly of crude oil (C$43.0 million), cotton T shirts, and fruit preparations. Canada renewed until 2004 a Textile Agreement with Syria which ranks as the world's 10th largest cotton producer.

High oil prices are fuelling Syria's oil and gas sector which is also a priority sector for Canada which has companies experienced in exploration, production and oil field development. There is a high demand for turnkey oil and gas treatment and productions facilities, oil-well servicing and other materials. Tanganyika Oil Company, Titan Engineering and Macdonald Engineering have won contracts in the oil and gas sector. The agriculture sector which accounts for over one-half of Syria's private sector economic activity offers considerable opportunities for Canadian suppliers of machinery, fertilisers, livestock and genetic materiel.

Restrictions on the private sector are slowly being eased through reforms of the banking sector and laws to encourage investment in agriculture, industry and tourism. A series of incoming and outgoing business missions are planned for the Spring of 2002 to capitalize on opportunities offered in other key sectors such as industrial machinery, energy and power, informatics, telecommunications, transportation and railways.

Canadian companies active in Syria include Canadair, Royal Canadian Mint, SNC Lavalin, Stella Jones, Air Canada and BA Banknote.


Canada contributes to multilateral organizations active in Syria such as UNRWA, UNICEF, the UNDP and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas at Aleppo. Since 1954, Canada has contributed to the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), which monitors the armistice agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including Syria. Since 1974, Canada has contributed military personnel to the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights (UNDOF).

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