EU top diplomat to discuss partnership deal in Damascus

21:29, March 15, 2010      

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Catherine Ashton, the European Union (EU) high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, will discuss a partnership agreement with Syrian officials during her upcoming visit to the country.

The Syrian-European Partnership Agreement would be undoubtedly presented on Ashton's agenda, EU ambassador to Syria Vassilis Bontosoglou was quoted as saying by Syrian daily Al-Watan on Monday.

Ashton will meet with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Monday evening and President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday morning followed by a press conference, Al-Watan reported.

According to Bontosoglou, Ashton is going to discuss the partnership agreement in general sense, as her schedule in Syria will not allow her to go deep into details.

Bontosoglou noted that an evaluation report of the partnership agreement from the Syrian Foreign Ministry will be presented to the EU by the end of the month.

The European ambassador confirmed "the EU's readiness to go ahead into the partnership agreement and discussing any questions, " the report said.

Syria and the EU first initialed an earlier version of the agreement in autumn of 2004, following years of negotiations. The agreement was shelved after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.

The EU has demanded Damascus to liberalize its politics and economy and improve its human rights record in order to sign the agreement.

On Oct. 8, 2009, the EU said it was ready to sign the agreement and asked Syrian foreign minister to sign the agreement in Luxembourg on Oct. 26. However, Damascus asked to postpone the signing to an unspecified date, saying it needed more time to consider the agreement and assess its impact on the Syria's economy.

Source: Xinhua
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