• Short Summary

    The prospect of union between Syria and Iraq appeared no nearer after four days of summit talks ended in Baghdad on Tuesday (19 June).

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    The prospect of union between Syria and Iraq appeared no nearer after four days of summit talks ended in Baghdad on Tuesday (19 June). The leaders of the two countries both agreed the talks had fallen short of their own expectations.

    SYNOPSIS: The talks between Iraqi President Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr, in the dark suit, and Syria's President hafez Al-Assad, stemmed from an agreement last October to end more than a decade of hostility between their neighbouring countries. Their stated aim was to merge Iraq and Syria into a single state with a population of some 20 million people.

    However an agreement on a 'joint political leadership', which the two leaders signed at the end of their summit talks, made no apparent tangible progress towards unification. It provides for a joint leadership, to be chaired by the two presidents, and agrees to draft a constitution for the planned state. there is also an agreement regarding the baath party. Both Iraq and Syria are ruled by rival wings of the Baath party which have been at odds for more than a decade. The feud between the two was at the root of the protected Iraq-Syrian dispute which once brought the two countries close to war.

    President Bakr made it clear the talks had fallen short of expectations. He said: "We all hoped our unionist steps would be bigger." Later, government announcements said more time was needed to achieve a unified state with a single leadership.

    President Assad said their aim was "total unity between Syria and Iraq as a strong, solid and genuine nucleus for comprehensive Arab unity." But he gave no indication when it was hoped unity would be achieved. Syrian newspapers hailed the agreement on joint leadership as a big step towards unity and one said the two countries were moving "strongly and confidently" towards this goal. However foreign diplomats, long sceptical of Arab merger attempts, said the summit seemed to have added little to the October agreement.

    The original unity agreement was a reaction to the Camp David Accords which led to Israel and Egypt signing a peace treaty. Both Syria and Iraq are opposed to the treaty and see it as a sell-out of Arab interests. As two large military powers in the Arab world, their unification -- giving armed forces of half a million men -- would pose a substantial threat to Israel.

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