Syria and the European Union (EU) concluded Tuesday, April 24, the latest round of negotiations on a trade association agreement, with both sides saying they had defined their areas of difference.
"These discussions enabled us to clarify our differences in three areas which we discussed," Syrian State Planning Minister Issam Zaim said during a press conference.
The two-days of discussions centered on trade exchanges, economic cooperation, and political issues as part of the move toward an association accord, which has been under negotiation between Syria and the EU since 1998.
The deal will give the EU preferential access to the still-closed Syrian market and should result in a free trade zone, at the most 12 years after it comes into force.
For his part, Peter Zangl, the European Commission's director for the Mediterranean, described the just concluded talks as fruitful.
"We now know how to effectively overcome the obstacles for any questions which have not been settled," he said.
Zangl added that it was not easy to bring together the worlds of the free market EU and the rigid state-controlled Syrian economy.
"The EU is in the process of helping Syria to modernize," he said.
On April 11, Zaim had accused the EU of seeking to impose western-style democracy on Syria.
But Zaim struck a conciliatory pose Tuesday. "We are conscience that there are different points of view and this is natural. We will discuss them and move past them," he said.
He also praised the EU for its role in world affairs.
"The EU represents an important force which will play a positive role in the new world order," he said.
The next round of negotiations will be July 10 and 11 in Brussels, Zangl added. — (AFP, Damascus)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)