Wed, May 09, 2012
World > Middle East > 2012 Syrian Situation

Backgrounder: Basic facts about Syria

2012-05-09 09:46:59 GMT2012-05-09 17:46:59(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

National flag

Country: The Syrian Arab Republic

Area: 185,180 sq km (including the 1,200-sq km Golan Heights still occupied by Israel)


22.198 million (2010). More than 80 percent of the residents are Arabians, and the rest are Kurds, Armenians, and Turkmen. Arabic is the national language, and English and French are commonly used. About 85 percent of the residents are Muslims, and 14 percent are Christian. Of the Muslims,Sunnis account for 80 percent (about 68 percent of the country’s population), and Shiites, the rest 20 percent, with 75 percent being Alawites (about 11.5 percent of the total population).

Capital: Damascus, with a population of 4.5 million.

Head of state:

President Bashar Al-Assad. He took office in July 2000, and won the second term in May 2007.

Independence day: April 17.

Geography and climate:

Syria lies in the western mainland of Asia along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Turkey to the north, Iraq to the southeast, Jordan to the south, Lebanon and Palestine to the southwest, and faces Cyprus to the west across the sea. Syria has a coastline of 183 km. The coastal areas and the northern region have a subtropical Mediterranean climate, while the southern part features a tropical desert climate. The desert has little precipitation in winter and is dry and hot in summer. The lowest temperature is below 0°C, while the highest temperature is about 40°C. The annual average precipitation is 1,000 mm in the coast areas and 100 mm in the southern region.

Bilateral relations with China:

The People's Republic of China and the Syrian Arab Republic established diplomatic relations in 1956. Over the past 50 years and more, China-Syria friendly relations witnessed steady development. The two sides maintained close exchanges at various levels and conducted friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation in political, economic, trade, cultural and other fields.

The two countries maintained close political exchanges in 2010. In November, CPPCC Chairman Jia Qinglin visited Syria. He had meetings with President Bashar al-Assad, Parliament Speaker Mahamud al-Abrash and Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri, and held talks with Vice President of the National Progressive Front Soulaiman Qaddah. The two sides exchanged views on the bilateral ties, exchanges and cooperation between the CPPCC and the National Progressive Front, and international and regional issues of mutual interest. During Chairman Jia's visit, several bilateral cooperation documents were signed. Also in November, General Xu Caihou, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, visited Syria and met with President Assad and other Syrian leaders. In March, Li Jinjun, Vice Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, led a CPC friendship delegation to Syria and met with Abdullah al-Ahmar, Assistant General Secretary of the Baath Arab Socialist Party. The two sides exchanged views on the bilateral relations and party-to-party ties. In June, China's Special Envoy for the Middle East issue Wu Sike visited Syria and met with Vice President Farouq al-Shara. The two sides exchanged views on the bilateral ties and regional issues of mutual interest. In September, Minister of Economy and Trade Lamia Asi came to China for the 2010 China (Ningxia) International Trade and Investment Fair and the First China-Arab States Economic and Trade Forum held in Yinchuan. In May, Assistant Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous came to China for the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum.

China and Syria gave each other understanding and support on issues concerning each other's core and major interests. China showed consistent understanding and firm support for Syria's position on the Golan Heights while Syria remained committed to the one China position and rendered China staunch support on matters related to Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and human rights.

In the wake of the earthquake in Yushu, Qinghai Province, President Assad sent a massage of condolences to President Hu Jintao.

The bilateral trade and economic relations made smooth progress. Two-way trade registered a significant increase from the 2009 figure. Mutually beneficial cooperation in energy, infrastructure development and other areas yielded good results. In September, the China-Syria Trade and Economic Joint Committee had its fourth meeting in Beijing. The two sides reached broad agreement on furthering economic and trade cooperation and signed the minutes of the meeting. In October, the two sides signed the Agreement Between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income.

Friendly exchanges and cooperation in cultural, media and other fields were on the increase. In June, Minister of Culture Riyadh Agha came to China for the Second Arab Arts Festival. In October, the two sides signed the Executive Program for the Years 2010-2013 under the Cultural Agreement Between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic.



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