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Italian President to visit Syria in March

DAMASCUS, Feb 16 (KUNA) -- The Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will start an official visit to Syria in mid-March where he will hold talks with his Syrian counterpart Bashar Al-Assad, focusing on bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to develop them, an official Syrian Source said Tuesday.
The source added that relations between Syria and Italy, the peace process in the Middle East, economic exchange and the role that Rome wants to play in the re-launch of Syrian-Israeli negotiations, will be on the visit agenda.
The Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said during his visit to Damascus last April, he was agrees with the Syrians that "2009 will be the year of peace," and as Italy lies in the Mediterranean, therefore could hold talks with the US to bring peace in the region, based on the Arab peace initiative and decisions of the International Quartet Committee.
The source also noted that talks between President Al-Assad and Napolitano will include boosting Syrian-Eurogroup relations.
The Syrian-European relations have witnessed in the past two years remarkable development, especially after the positive Syrian role in the region.
Italy stated that it will help in resuming Syrian-Israeli negotiations; meanwhile, Syria believes that Italy is an economic and diplomatic partner.
Syrian-Italian economic relations witnessed in 2007 trade exchange estimated to 51 billion Euros, as both sides seek increasing exchanging.
The talk about the Italian president to visit Damascus coincides with Damascus's major diplomatic activity, as the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout is to visit Syria today, and the Austrian Foreign Minister Mikhail Chbandl Aigr will also visit on Friday to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Syrian counterpart, Walid Al-Muallem, and hold a press conference on Saturday.
The Austrian Minister's visit coincides with a visit to Damascus by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, on Friday, which is the first visit by the Prime Minister of France since the visit of former Prime Minister Raymond Barre in 1977. (end) tk.asa KUNA 161404 Feb 10NNNN