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France, Syria agree to improve ties

July 12, 2009 at 1:33 PM

DAMASCUS, Syria, July 12 (UPI) -- The office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday the leader reached a deal aimed at improving ties between his country and France.

The presidential office said in a statement that al-Assad and visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner reached an agreement for improved relations and a bilateral focus on the problems facing the Middle East, the Kuwait news agency KUNA reported.

Among the two officials' goals are the creation of a national unity government in Lebanon and continued support of national unity efforts by the Iraqi government.

Kouchner said French President Nicolas Sarkozy supports increased bilateral ties with Syria. The French minister was also to meet with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem Sunday.

"Syria and France share similar views that Israel should stop all forms of Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied territories and lift the blockade on Gaza Strip in order to prepare the ground for the resumption of the peace talks," al-Mualem said of the two countries' approaches to the Middle East.

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