Prodi Begins Arab Tour in Jordan, Reaffirming EU Support for Middle East Peace

Published February 8th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

European Commission President Romano Prodi on Thursday held talks with Jordanian officials at the start of a three-nation Arab tour aimed at reaffirming the European Union's commitment to Mideast peace, reported AFP. 

His visit coincides with heightened concern in the region following Tuesday's electoral triumph of hard-line Israeli prime minister-elect Ariel Sharon, said the agency. 

Prodi arrived late Wednesday in Amman ahead of visits to Beirut and Damascus, which will also focus on European efforts to strengthen ties with Arab countries as part of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership forum. 

In Amman, he will meet with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb, and call on the leaders of parliament's lower and upper chambers as well as tour a Palestinian refugee camp, an EU statement said last week. 

Prodi, who heads the EU's executive branch, will also discuss plans for an EU-Mediterranean free trade area to be set up by 2010, a goal that will entail major economic and structural reforms in many states in the region, reported the Daily Star newspaper last week. 

Jordan signed a partnership agreement with the EU in 1997 and parliament ratified it in 1999, but the agreement still awaits ratification from France and Belgium, according to the EU. 

Jordan is also a major beneficiary of EU assistance, having received since 1996 555 million Euros (520 million dollars) worth of commitments in loans and grants with 80 percent of the grants already disbursed. 

In addition to this Euro-Mediterranean assistance, Jordan also received 1.5 billion Euros (1.4 billion dollars) from Europe over the past five years, AFP said -- Albawaba.com 

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