The Damascus International Fair, the top event on pre-war Syria's economic calendar, is making a comeback this week after a five-year absence with western companies among participants from 23 countries.
Organisers say firms from Britain, France and Germany will exhibit their goods and services in a private capacity, with their countries having severed relations with President Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.
“Countries with a hostile attitude towards Syria have not been invited,” Fares al-Kartally, the fair’s general director, told AFP.
“But at the same time we’ve not expressed reservations over any company expressing an interest in taking part in the fair either directly or through Syrian mediators,” he said, without naming them.
The Damascus trade fair, which dates back to 1954, making it the oldest in the Arab world, opens on Thursday and runs for 10 days.
Its comeback has been made possible by “the return of calm and stability in most regions” of Syria, said Kartally. “We want this fair to signal the start of (the country’s) reconstruction.”
The fair was last staged in the summer of 2011, just months after the outbreak of Syria’s conflict, which the World Bank estimates has cost the Arab state as much as $226 billion in losses, or four times its annual pre-war GDP.
Around 1,500 delegates are expected to attend, with 49 pavilions for different sectors ranging from the textile industry which was a mainstay of the Syrian economy before the war but has since been decimated, to the agricultural sector, according to organisers.