Trade negotiations between Syria and the European Union (EU) have reached a deadlock over attempts to force President Bashar Assad to abandon the government's chemical weapons program, European and Syrian officials say.
The Syrian government was hoping to open finalize a trade deal with Europe before the possible imposition of US economic sanctions. Eased trade with Western Europe would soften the blow of an American embargo which calls for the barring US exports, including dual-use items, to the Arab state.
Syrian authorities complain that the EU, under pressure from Washington, has added a new clause to the accords banning the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
"We feel the wording is a deliberate attempt to raise impossible issues," said Syria's minister of expatriate affairs, Buthaina Shabaan in Washington Post. "This negatively affects us a great deal." Officials also say that the EU did not include this clause in trade accords with Israel, a nation also possessing an undeclared store of nuclear weapons.
The trade agreement between the EU and Syria would create a free trade area (FTA) between the two parties, contributing to the creation of a larger Euro-Mediterranean area by the envisaged date of 2010. The FTA would cover trade in goods, services, public procurement, rules for the protection of intellectual property rights, as well as dispute settlement provisions in line with those in the WTO. The agreement also foresees co-operation in a large number of areas including on customs, transport, tourism or environment. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )