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Europe should study Syria incentives - lawmakers

26 Oct 2006

Europe should study Syria incentives - lawmakers

STRASBOURG, France, Oct 26 (Reuters) - European Union countries should consider offering new incentives to Syria to encourage it to promote Middle East peace, EU lawmakers said on Thursday.

A report adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg reaffirmed that Syria must respect democratic values and human rights before the Council of 25 EU member states could approve an accord on closer ties that has been on ice for two years.

However it added: "Parliament requests the Council to consider additional incentives and benefits for Syria, going beyond those granted through the association agreement ... to encourage Syria to review its current foreign policy ..."

The aim should be to encourage Syria to help promote Middle East peace and recognition of Israel, the report said, without detailing the incentives.

EU countries should at the same time encourage democracy in Syria and call on it to avoid interference in Lebanon’s affairs and stop arms supplies to anti-Israeli Hezbollah guerrillas.

The report also called on Syria to free political prisoners and allow freedom of expression.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Parliament on Wednesday re-engaging with Syria should be part of EU strategy, but she added:

"Under the present political circumstances, it is difficult to envisage deepening our relations with Syria."

Ferrero-Waldner said member states expected Syria to take "positive and credible" steps on Lebanon and the Palestinian issue before signing the association agreement on closer ties initialled by both sides in 2004.

"So far political circumstances have not been right," she said, adding that Syrian statements on implementation of the U.N. resolution ending the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas may be encouraging signs.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said this month he was ready for talks with Israel but queried whether the current Israeli government had the strength to move towards peace and if the United States has the will to help.

Assad denied Syria had armed Hezbollah in the war, offering only political support, but now was prepared to work with the international community to prevent new weapons from reaching the militant Shi’ite movement.

 source: Reuters