Commercial Dispute Spurs Syria to Freeze Iraqi Funds
The Syrian government has in the past few weeks frozen the assets of Iraqi governmental bodies to the tune of tens of millions of dollars because of a dispute over trade cooperation agreements, the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat reported Sunday, cited by Haaretz newspaper.
According to the Tel Aviv-based daily's report, the two states are trying to resolve their disagreement. Iraq's vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, is scheduled to make a visit to Damascus at the end of the week.
The paper also notes that Jordanian and other Middle Eastern diplomats have of late warned against overly close trade relations with Iraq. According to the diplomats, Iraq is warming to its neighbors as a protective measure, should the US and its allies choose to attack it in the coming months.
Leading Jordanian sources, the daily writes, warn that trade relations with Iraq "are likely to be threatened" if the US decides to attack Baghdad after it ends its campaign in Afghanistan.
In early November, Iraq and Syria said they would set up nine joint-venture companies.
Ramadan was quoted by AFP as saying at the Baghdad Trade Fair that "We are on the way to setting up nine joint companies."
The vice president described economic ties between the two neighbors as a "common market ...in all sectors, without any restriction,” following the launch of a free trade agreement in April.
In September, Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammad Mehdi Saleh announced that Iraq's imports from Syria were set to triple in 2001 to reach $1.5 billion.
Iraq and Syria, governed by rival branches of the Baath Party, froze diplomatic relations in 1980 over Syrian support for Iran in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, but have since stepped up economic relations – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)