The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sinha on twin trips

New Delhi, Aug. 1: Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha left for Syria and Turkey late last night to strengthen bilateral relations with the two countries and get an assessment from them on the situation in Iraq and the West Asia peace process.

Sinha, who arrived in Damascus today on a four-day tour of the country, will have wide-ranging discussions with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other leaders, including foreign minister Farouq al-Shara. He is also scheduled to inaugurate an Indian chancery building. Developments in post-war Iraq would be one of the main thrusts of Sinha’s discussions with the Syrian and Turkish leaderships.

Sinha’s visit gathers special significance as Syria and Turkey are not only neighbours of Iraq, but also important countries in the region whose views are vital if and when Delhi decides to send troops to Iraq.

Syria, which had been vocal in its opposition to the US-initiated war in Iraq, has since made it clear that it will not shelter pro-Saddam Hussein elements. But it is also aware that it is very much in the US’ gunsight. The Syrian leadership will try to enlist India’s support on any US plan to do something similar in Damascus as it recently did in Baghdad.

Sinha will be in Ankara from August 5 to 6 to hold talks with the Turkish leadership, including President Ahmet Sezer.

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