Syria, EU to Meet in April for Partnership Negotiations
Syria and the European Union (EU) will hold negotiations on April 23rd to forge a partnership agreement, Syria's State Minister for Planning Affairs, Issam Al-Zay'im, was quoted as saying by the official news agency SANA Saturday.
Syria and the EU have held several rounds of negotiations on an association agreement since 1998. Another round had been set for the end of March, but was postponed on March 11 by Syria.
The Syrian-EU agreement should establish a free trade zone by 2010 and give the EU preferential access to the relatively closed Syrian market, said AFP.
Zaim told the agency previously that he expects the EU to provide Syria with "financial, technical and institutional support" to assist the privatization of Syria's state-controlled economy.
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 euros (68 million dollars) and loans of 190 million euros (176 million dollars) to finance programs for modernisation and social and economic development - Albawaba.com.
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