Schroeder announces German loan of $27 million for Syria
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced here Monday a loan of $27 million (32.1 million euros) to Syria and an end of German opposition to assistance for Damascus.
Germany suspended financial cooperation with Syria about 10 years ago, when Syria stopped paying the reunified Germany for debts it incurred with the former East Germany.
"Once the agreement we reached on the debt is signed, we will begin to cooperate," Schroeder said, without giving a date for a signing.
The visiting chancellor said the first German aid to Syria would be 62 million marks ($27 million) for hydraulic projects.
"We will also support the reaching of a partnership accord between Syria and the European Union, and lift our opposition to European Investment Bank assistance," Schroeder said after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The European Investment Bank has agreed to give Syria 75 million euros for electricity works.
"We are at the dawn of new relations of cooperation," Schroeder said.
Prime Minister Mohammed Mustapha Miro, who also met with the chancellor, expressed satisfaction with the agreement.
"We found that Schroeder shares our desire to enlarge our economic, commercial, technical and cultural cooperation," he said.
Syria owes Germany about 1.25 billion euros.
A European diplomatic source told AFP on Thursday a preliminary accord had been negotiated for the debt to be repaid over 20 years, starting with a grace period of five years during which interest will not be charged.
The outlines of the accord were reached during talks early this month in Damascus between government officials and visiting German Deputy Finance Minister Caio Koch-Weser, the source said.
Most of the Syrian debt was incurred to the former East Germany for economic and especially industrial imports, he added.
During the talks earlier this month, Damascus claimed it had not received some of the imports it ordered from the former East Germany, the European source said.
Syrian exports to Germany totalled 760 million in 1999, while German exports to Syria hit 280 million, according to the German embassy.
Germany is the second largest exporter to Syria after Italy, and most of its sales are in machines, industrial materials, chemical products, cars and stainless steel.
Petroleum products make up most of the Syrian exports to Germany, which buys cotton and textile products from the country.
The largest German investor in Syria is petroleum company Veba, part of a consortium run by Anglo-Dutch group Shell which has a total investment of five billion dollars in the country.
Syria, which suffers from high unemployment, launched a one billion-dollar program at the start of this month to create 440,000 jobs. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
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