Eec to Resume High-level Ties with Syria, but Sanctions Remain

The European Economic Community (EEC) will resume high-level diplomatic relations with Syria, suspended last November after the Syria Embassy in London was linked to a terrorist attempt to blow up an Israeli airliner in London.

The decision was taken Monday by the Foreign Ministers of the 12 EEC member states attending the European Political Cooperation conference in Copenhagen. But other EEC-imposed sanctions against Syria will remain in effect for the time being. These include an embargo on arms deliveries, freezing of EEC aid and surveillance of Syrian diplomatic activities and Syrian airlines.

The EEC gesture toward Damascus was seen as an expression of approval of Syrian moves to distance itself from international terrorism such as the closure of the offices of the Abu Nidal terrorist group in Damascus and Syrian help to gain the release of Western hostages held in Lebanon.

According to diplomatic observers, the EEC’s move toward rapprochement with Syria coincides with the renewal of high level U.S.-Syrian contacts. Another consideration is said to be Syria’s potential role in efforts to convene an international conference for Middle East peace. An international conference has been endorsed by the EEC as the only way to advance the peace process at this time. Syria has always been seen by the Europeans as a key player in the process.

The 12 EEC Foreign Ministers consider the sharp division in the Israeli government over an international conference to be one of the main obstacles. But they also stressed the necessity to await the outcome of the next Arab summit conference at which the Arab states are expected to take a common position on a conference.

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