The 6th round of negotiations for a Euro-Syrian Partnership
Syria-European Union, Economics, 4/26/2001
Syria and the European Union concluded on Wednesday two days of negotiations aimed at establishing a partnership leading to a bilateral free trade zone. Both sides declared that progress was achieved and that they agreed to convene a new round of talks in July.
A press briefing was held by the Syrian Minister of State for Planning Issam al-Zaim and the Director of the South Mediterranean, Middle and Near East department at the European Commission Mr. Peter Zangl. The event was attended by Arab and foreign media correspondents in Damascus. The Syrian Minister said "we are happy to announce that we have achieved a genuine progress in the issues we have already discussed during our 6th round," noting that the next round of negotiations will be held in Brussels on 10 and 11 July.
Zaim added that discussions focused on industrial and agricultural goods, classified into categories by the Syrian government, which the EU requested earlier. He said that these lists can be modified in line with regional or international economic conditions.
He also said that the Syrian side stressed the link between dismantling tariffs and enhancing Syria's industry É He added it was agreed that the EU will study the Syrian proposals and the results would be debated in coming sessions.
On his assessment of the talks held between the two sides Mr. Zangl said " In this 6th round we worked in the spirit of partnership and in a very open way. We mostly addressed three subjects: dismantling customs tariffs, the political chapter and the agricultural chapter," noting that they did not conclude a particular issue but set the scene.
Mr Zangl added that the EU wants to see Syria continue its path of modernization, and the EU is "ready to help in this respect, and is not awaiting the agreement to do so." He cited a few examples of successful cooperation projects such as the Syrian European Business Center, the Business School and others.
Replying to a question on how can an equal agreement be reached between Syria which is a developing country, whose industry is young, and the EU which is developed, the Syrian Minister said that Syria's orientation complies with the new world order. He elaborated " we are taking part in the Arab free trade zone which will be implemented by the year 2007, but moving ahead of this date by freeing exchange with Arab countries," adding that Syria is seeking progress in its industry parallel to its endeavors towards this Arab zone and the European partnership.
He continued that Syria seeks to maintain a sustainable industry, and social balance, adding that the Association Agreement is an element among others, and that Syria aims at a cooperation for development.
Zaim also said that Syria's relations with the EU are based on objective considerations; the unity of historical and geographical relation, the need for peace and stability, to name a few, which requires dialogue about each side's understanding of issues. He stressed the "privacy of the society which is connected to the Arab- Israeli conflict and the national unity," noting that there are differences which would be discussed in order to be surmounted, viewing the differences as normal.
On Syria's challenges with the Association Agreement, the Minister said that Syria is holding negotiations at a time when she is modernizing her economy and activating growth on the long-run," noting that the Syrian "awareness about challenges is increasing through negotiations."
Dr Zaim also said "there was an agreement on the general frame of political relations between Europe and the Middle East," referring to the Barcelona Conference which is based on the principles of an area of peace and stability. He added "coordination with the EU takes place on specific issues, but not strategically." Replying to a question on how the EU views the negotiations with Syria, Mr. Zangl said "after several rounds, we discussed important essentials to improve mutual understanding, which is now real" describing this step as important, adding "we are on the right track to finish by the end of the year, if there is a wish."
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