BEIRUT -- President Bashar al-Assad paid a rare visit in the northern province Aleppo to see the country's largest city, and to inaugurate a power plant that was once controlled by insurgents. The station suffered extensive damage during the war. State media reported.
Assad and his family visited Aleppo, Syria's largest city and once the nation’s commercial center. It was their first visit since December 2016, when government forces seized its eastern neighborhoods. This occurred after a long battle.
The president's office published photographs showing Assad, Asma, Asma, their two sons, and a daughter, walking through Aleppo's historic covered market. This landmark was heavily damaged during the conflict. The market is currently being renovated in parts.
Assad also visited the Ummayad Mosque (known as The Great Mosque of Aleppo) which dates back centuries. Renovation work on this site has been ongoing for many years.
After four years of rebels' control, the 2016 capture of eastern Aleppo was Assad’s greatest victory in the conflict.
According to his office and SANA, Assad had visited a power plant in the eastern Aleppo province before he went on tour.
Today, parts of Syria that are government-held experience more than 12 hours of power outages per day because the country's production is much lower than it needs. During the 11-year conflict, Syria's infrastructure was severely damaged.
SANA reported that Assad also inaugurated a portion of the Aleppo power plant, which was renovated and can produce 200 megawatts. According to the report, work was also underway to fix other parts of this station.
The report stated that Friday's inauguration falls on the sixth anniversary of the capture of the station by militants by Syrian troops.
Thanks to Russia and Iran, the balance of power has shifted in Assad's favor. The civil war which began in 2011 left hundreds of thousands dead, nearly half of the country's population displaced and large parts of Syria ruined.
Recently, Hussein Arnous, Syria's Prime Minister, stated to parliament that the country needs approximately 7,000 megawatts of power but that stations produce just a little over 2,500 megawatts.
Arnous stated that electricity shortages are due to the fact that Syria's natural gas production dropped dramatically during the conflict. Some of Syria's largest oil fields and gas fields are being held by U.S-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Syria and a group from the United Arab Emirates signed a contract in November to construct a solar power plant in Damascus. At peak rates, the station will produce 300 megawatts.
One month prior, Syria's electricity ministry had signed a $115million contract with an Iranian company for the construction of another power station in central Syria.