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Press Release 98/23




Damascus, 25 March 1998 - FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf accompanied by Mr. Assad Moustafa, Syrian Minister for Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Mr. Antonio Romano Napolitano, Ambassador of Italy to Syria and Mr. Massimo Andrea Leggeri, Coordinator of multilateral cooperation, Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs inaugurated this afternoon a photo exhibition entitled "Environment and Development in the Mediterranean". Ministers of Agriculture participating in the FAO Regional Conference for the Near East convening in Damascus, were also in attendance.

The exhibition originally scheduled to open on the 19th of this month, under the patronage of Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro had to be postponed due to health problems that prevented the Italian Head of State from travelling.

The exhibition highlights a strong commitment to the environment and development in the Mediterranean with emphasis on natural resource management and sustainable development through cooperation between Italy, Syria and FAO. The exhibition will be open until the end of March at the Assad Library in Damascus, Syria and will be moved to Rome and Milan in Italy during the months of May and June of this year.

The exhibition, featuring over sixty large size photographs, gives a vivid proof of the success achieved by field progress during the past few years. The cooperative program, made possible through a 7.9 million dollar donation from the Italian Government, and is being implemented by FAO, incorporates two projects that seek to protect the environment, which is also a priority for Syria.

Range rehabilitation and establishment of a wildlife reserve in the Syrian steppe is a project aimed at reclaiming deteriorated rangeland and improving the living conditions of the Bedouin who live there. The project is geared towards the rehabilitation of some 130,000 ha of pastureland and the creation of a 22,000 ha wildlife reserve.

"Forestry and food security in the Mediterranean and the Near East Region" is the title of the second project FAO is implementing in Syria, Turkey and Jordan. Its objective is simultaneously to increase the availability of food through the cooperation and integrated management of forest and natural resources in the three countries. It promotes reforestation and participatory management of forest resources, improvement of food security, awareness campaigns and community training on management and protection of natural resources.

A new FAO project financed by Italy for the development of suitable agricultural policies and training of specialists, which will integrate the activities of the environmental projects presented above, has been activated with a budget of 3.5 million dollars.

In the words of Mr. Leggeri, "The development of strong links between peoples of different countries and cultures and the increase in commerce and trade, encourage stability and peace in the Mediterranean Basin".


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