EU's Prodi in Damascus to back Assad's reforms
The president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, began a three-day visit to Damascus on Friday in a bid to support President Bashar al-Assad's reforms, the EU delegation here said.
Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa Miro greeted the commission chief, who was to meet Assad on Saturday, at the airport, according to the state news agency.
"The main objectives of the visit are to reinforce the EU-Syria relationship and to express support for the process of economic modernization and institutional reform undertaken by President Assad," an EU delegation statement said earlier.
"The prospects for an EU-Syria Association Agreement", under negotiation since 1998, "will also be discussed, taking into account that it will cover not only trade and economic issues, but also social and cultural aspects and the political dialogue between the two parties."
Prodi "will also discuss the future prospects of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership after the Marseille Conference as well as the Middle East peace process."
Syria boycotted the November Euro-Mediterranean Summit in Marseille, which was attended by Israel, as a protest against what it said were Israeli attacks on the Palestinians.
However, Syria's boycott of the political aspect of the Euro-Med partnership dit not affect bilateral EU-Syria economic ties.
The EU in December resumed bank loans to Damascus, following an agreement restructuring Syria's €1.25 billion ($1.15 billion) debt to Germany.
The European Investment Bank on February 5 granted Syria a €115 million ($102 million) loan to improve electric power distribution, bringing total EIB lending to the Syrian electricity sector to €190 million ($175 million). – (AFP, Damascus)
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