The Syrian government signed a deal with a Russian firm Monday for the first phase of an irrigation project for the drought-hit northeast of the war-torn country, state media said.
The project, which had been planned before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011, aims to draw water from the River Tigris to irrigate land in Hasakeh province.
The government still controls Hasakeh city but much of the surrounding province is in the hands of Kurdish militia or jihadists of the Islamic State.
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"The General Company for Water Resources signed today a contract valued at 30 billion Syrian pounds ($264 million) with Russian company Stroytransgaz to carry out a project... to draw water from the Tigris," the state SANA news agency said.
The deal is for the construction of a main pumping station in the Ain Diwar area, near the Turkish and Iraqi borders.
It is a small part of the ambitious master plan originally drawn up which aims to irrigate some 214 million hectares (530 million acres) at a total cost of more than $2 billion.
Russia is the Assad regime's most powerful ally and Russian firms have long been heavily involved in the Syrian economy.