Syria postpones EU association talks
Syria has postponed talks on an association agreement with the European Union (EU) from the end of March to early May, Syrian Minister of State for Planning Affairs Issam Al-Zaim said Sunday, March 11.
"The delay in negotiations will enable us to prepare a national strategy to revive industry in the public and private sectors," he said in comments to the SANA news agency.
"We want to define our priorities in the industrial sector ... and work out clear objectives and our needs," the minister said, adding that it was "necessary for the Europeans to take account of economic developments going on in Syria."
The Syrian-EU association agreement which has been discussed since 1998, should result in the establishment of a free trade zone by 2010 and will give the EU preferential access to the relatively closed Syrian market.
According to Zaim, "Syria is calling for and expects financial, technical and institutional support from the Europeans to push through (economic) reforms" in Syria.
The Syrian government has for the past year been working on modernizing the Syrian economy. Several economic laws, covering in particular the establishment of private banks, are due to be promulgated soon.
During a February visit to Damascus, European Commission President Roman Prodi said he expected an EU-Syria association agreement to be reached by the summer.
The EU has so far given Syria aid worth €73 million ($68 million) and loans of €190 million ($176 million) to finance programs for modernization and social and economic development. — (AFP, Damascus)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)