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War in Syria Stays Out of Damascus Spice Market

From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report in Special English.Eighteen months of conflict in Syria have hurt the country's economy. But parts of the capital, Damascus, feel normal. Prices are higher. But goods are still available.

A VOA reporter recently visited Damascus under the guidance of a Syrian government official. She told us that the Spice Market of Old Damascus is an unusual sight in a country affected by civil war. It is active. People are shopping there. This takes place while Syrian military forces strike nearby towns where rebels have support.

One man she met operates a business once owned by his father and grandfather. He sells cumin, dried peppers, pine nuts and almonds. He told VOA that business is about the same, but prices have gone up. This has affected both his customers and profit. He is thankful, though, that supplies are still arriving at his shop. But he says people are cutting back, and mainly buying essential goods.

A spokesperson with the Syrian Ministry of Economy and Trade says Western restrictions on Syria have caused problems. International sanctions came following the government's violent reaction to its opponents. But, he says, the government has worked to keep business in the capital thriving. He notes that there is a self-sufficiency to the Syrian economy. And that it is very diverse.Syria is, however, seeking help from outside the country.

Russia, China and Venezuela are major trading partners. The spokesman says many of these countries stay focused on business interests and not political matters.But conditions in Syria are important to many other countries. Many thousands of people have been killed in violence across Syria.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal.