Prodi, in Syria, Hopes for ‘Reasonable’ Israeli Government
European Commission President Romano Prodi, on a visit Saturday to Damascus, said he hoped Israel will form a "reasonable government" after right-wing hard-liner Ariel Sharon's election as prime minister, said AFP.
"We are concerned about the results of the Israeli elections and of the position and past of Ariel Sharon, but things should not be judged hastily, and we are hoping for the formation of a reasonable Israeli government," Prodi said at Damascus University after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Prodi said the European Union "wants to be a neutral mediator in the peace process."
During his meeting with Prodi, Assad asked that the EU "effectively pursue its role to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region, based on the application of UN resolutions recognized by the international community," the official news agency SANA said.
Prodi, on a tour to the region that has also taken him to Jordan and Lebanon, said Thursday in Amman that Sharon should be judged on his actions, calling on Sharon to resume peace talks with the Palestinians from where they left off in Taba, Egypt before the election.
The European leader is also trying to boost relations with Mediterranean area countries and said Saturday the EU favored "regional cooperation and the strengthening of ties even in the absence of peace, as any other form of cooperation would have a colonialist character."
Prodi also praised Syria's "modernization process," noting "a new climate in the region. I am optimistic about it."
Syria and the EU have been negotiating a free trade agreement since 1998, which Prodi said "aims to modernize society. The EU has no intention of exploiting" its partners.
"We want to reach balanced agreements building bridges between Islam and Christianity," he said.
During Prodi's visit, agreements were signed granting Syria a total of 38 million Euros (35.1 million dollars) to upgrade electricity and telecommunications networks, as well as to finance a business management institute and a program for cultural tourism, said the agency.
The EU in December resumed bank loans to Damascus, following an agreement restructuring Syria's 1.25 billion-Euro (1.15 billion-dollar) debt to Germany.
The European Investment Bank on February 5 granted Syria a 115 million-Euro (102 million-dollar) loan to improve electric power distribution, bringing total EIB lending to the Syrian electricity sector to 190 million Euros (175 million dollars).
Prodi was in Beirut Friday, and held talks with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
Both sides agreed to resume negotiations on the Euro-Med agreement in Brussels in June – Albawaba.com
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