Wednesday, October 20, 2004

EU rewards Syria

Syria signed a wide-ranging agreement on political and economic cooperation with the European Union on Tuesday after more than five years of negotiations, snagged over a clause on weapons of mass destruction.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom spoke out against the agreement at Sunday's cabinet meeting, saying that stepping up international pressure and isolating both Syria and Iran at this time is 'critical.'

At the meeting, Shalom called the EU's intention to sign an 'association agreement' with Syria a 'pity.' He called on Europe to 'strengthen the international front against terror,' and said that a continuation of international pressure against Damascus will cause it to abandon terror 'and will bring them back to the negotiating table with Israel faster.'

The association agreement is similar to those the EU has already concluded with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon and Morocco as part of a plan to build trade and political ties across the Mediterranean Sea.

Syria's was delayed by its reluctance to sign, owing to a clause demanding commitment to the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction that the EU has insisted upon since late 2003.

Negotiators wrapped up a deal last month by rewording the clause to satisfy both sides.

EU officials declined to immediately release the exact wording, but issued a statement saying it 'includes essential provisions on... cooperation to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.'