Sarkozy arrives in Damascus


Damascus : French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Damascus, capital of Syria, on Wednesday for a 2-day official visit.

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This is the first visit of a senior French official in this level to Syria after ties between Paris and Damascus were strained four years ago.

In this trip, Sarkozy is to discuss Lebanon situation, indirect talks between Syria and Israel, regional issues, bilateral ties and ways to develop them with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Sarkozy is scheduled to inaugurate Charles de Gualle School here Thursday morning and attend a gathering of the French residing in Damascus.

According to the Syrian State Newspaper” Tishrin”, the two countries are to sign agreements on cooperation between Syrian government and Airbus Aviation Company for purchasing and renting passenger planes, oil exploration, electricity generation, transportation and general management training courses.

The paper quoting French sources added, “France as the rotating president of European Union will take its utmost for final approval and implementation of Europe-Syria agreements signed in the year 2004.

President Sarkozy has already said that during his trip he will continue talks with Syrian officials.

Opposing continuation of Syrian isolation, the French president said he prefers clear and transparent talks.

Former French President Jacques Chirac suspended high level relations between France and Syria after assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, in which Syria was accused to be involved, but Syria denied any kind of connection with the crime.

Chirac visited Syria in the year 2002 for the last time, but President Sarkozy renewed ties with Syria and pledged for
strengthening ties after Lebanon crisis ended.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner visited Syria last week to prepare situation for President Sarkozy trip to Syria.

In a press conference with his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem, Kouchner said, “A new phase of relations between the two countries has started.”

President Sarkozy had already said, “Talks with President Assad in Paris caused progress in two ways; first establishment of diplomatic relations between Beirut and Damascus for the first time in the history and second Syrian decision on France and the USA supervision on direct talks between Syria and Israel in an appropriate time and implementing peace agreement which needs some security precautionary measures.

According to the observers, Sarkozy visit to Damascus is a turning point in direction of relations between Paris-Damascus and the world community is watching the consequences of the visit.

President Sarkozy, President al-Assad as well as Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are meet here Thursday.