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Syria, Turkey ink 50 bilateral deals

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The governments of Turkey and Syria signed in Damascus 50 agreements and memoranda of understanding on economic and security issues.

Syrian President Bashar Assad welcomed a delegation from Ankara led by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Both countries approached the brink of war in 1998 over disagreements regarding the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party. In 2002 the countries repaired relations by signing an accord that permitted bilateral military ties, and in September both sides formed a bilateral council in an effort to re-establish their relations and work toward a joint vision for regional issues.

A joint statement issued from the meeting notes both sides agreed that regional security and stability are "an essential dimension" of the bilateral relationship between the two governments.

Both sides called on the Israeli government to halt settlement activities in the Palestinian territories while stressing comprehensive peace requires a full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights.

In terms of Iraq, with which both countries share a border, the joint statement recognized the importance of March parliamentary elections and welcomed the anticipated withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2011.

Among the agreements are protocols on police training, remediation of water quality, cooperation between state news agencies and bilateral coordination on railways and trade.

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A second bilateral council meeting is scheduled for 2010 in Turkey.

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