April 16 (UPI) -- There's little chance Western oil and gas companies will return to Syria's economy, which needs billions of dollars in restoration, a Russian delegate said.
Russian news agency Tass reported Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met in Damascus with representatives from the Kremlin to discuss what's needed to repair the war-torn economy. Dmitry Sablin, the head of the delegation and a member of Russia's lower house of parliament, said it could take decades to recover from conflict.
"An important issue is the restoration of infrastructure," he said. "That will cost no less than $400 billion and will take from 10 to 15 years."
Western allies targeted suspected chemical weapons sites in Syria during the weekend. The conflict has the potential to pit some of the world's superpowers against one another. The Kremlin has been on the side of Assad, while the United States and its European counterparts have been opposed.
The European Union imposed an embargo on Syrian oil more than five years ago in response to Assad's crackdown on regime protestors. The Syrian oil sector was on the radar for French supermajor Total nearly a decade ago.
Referencing comments made by Assad, the Russian delegate said Damascus wasn't waiting around for Western companies to move back into the energy sector.
"We want Russian companies to work here, and we expect their fast market entry," he quoted the president as saying.
Gulfsands Petroleum was one of the last companies to stop work in Syria, saying in 2012 it was a matter of "financial and operational prudence" to halt its activity.
Economic momentum in Syria has nearly ground to a halt. Tens of millions of people in the country are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance and, according to a CIA brief, Syria has very few options.
"Long-run economic constraints include foreign trade barriers, declining oil production, high unemployment, rising budget deficits, increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, rapid population growth, industrial expansion, water pollution, and widespread infrastructure damage," its assessment read.