France circumspect on EU-Syria ties

Europe should engage Syria but on condition it makes progress in peace talks with Israel, the French foreign minister said.

Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday it is still premature for the European Union to accept Syria into a partnership pact that already includes other Middle East nations.

“My personal opinion is perhaps it’s a bit too early, we are going to have to wait and see how the dialogue between Israel and Syria develops,” Kouchner told a panel from the European Parliament in Brussels.

“But we should be prepared to move forward. Not yet, we should be on standby, and ready to respond to the opening up, the democratic opening up of Syria, but I think that we will need to bide our time.”

France and other European nations suspended ties with Damascus over the assassination three years ago of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, which was widely blamed on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

But Assad was the guest of honor at a Paris summit this week, a turnaround credited to his recent indirect peace talks with Israel and mediation in resolving a power-struggle in Beirut.

 

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