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assad r-Damascus- Opening an Arab economic bloc would remove obstacles inhibiting regional investments, the Syrian president said during a summit in Damascus.

Syrian President Bashar Assad welcomed a delegation to his country for the 13th Damascus Conference, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Assad during the conference “underlined the importance for the creation of an Arab economic bloc, capable of competition and facing international challenges,” SANA said.

Damascus aims to reverse years of isolationist policies by reaching out to its neighbors. Damascus in 2009 reached a series of energy and transit agreements with Turkey and Iran.

Beirut, Lebanon and Damascus, meanwhile, exchanged ambassadors in 2009 after years of acrimony. Washington in February appointed Robert Ford as the first U.S. envoy to Damascus since U.S. President George W. Bush broke ties in 2005.

The economic talks in Damascus dealt with expanding economic cooperation among Arab countries. An emphasis was added to joint regional investment projects to support inter-Arab relations.

More than 1,000 businessmen from across the Middle East arrived in Damascus for the two-day summit that wraps up Friday. UPI

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