ATHENS Ñ Syria has launched a campaign to improve relations with NATO allies in the
Middle East region, in wake of the imposition of sanctions by the United
Syrian President Bashar Assad has scheduled visits to Greece and Turkey
over the next few weeks. They will be the first such visits by a
Syrian president to the two NATO allies.
Friday, President George Bush signed the Syrian Accountability Act, which
imposes a virtual U.S. trade embargo on Damascus.
Assad arrived in Athens on Sunday for a three-day visit, Middle East Newsline reported. He met with his Greek counterpart, Costis Stefanopoulos, and then received a
medal from parliament.
The Syrian president is to meet a range of political figures and then
hold a session with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Greek officials
said Assad will also hold a news conference before his departure on
Over the weekend, Assad met a U.S. congressional delegation to discuss
Syrian policy on Islamic insurgency groups and Damascus's occupation of
"My approval of the act does not constitute my adoption of the various
statements of policy in the act as U.S. foreign policy," Bush said.
Assad has also scheduled a visit to Turkey. That visit is expected to
begin on Jan. 6.
Last week, a senior Turkish security official discussed security
cooperation during his visit to Damascus. The visit came in wake of the
transfer to Ankara of 22 Turkish nationals suspected of insurgency
activities, including the Al Qaida bombings in Istanbul last month.