Medvedev’s Visits to Syria and Turkey – News Round Up (14 May 2010)

Russia sells Syria warplanes, air defence systems: official

(AFP) – MOSCOW — Russia is supplying Syria with warplanes, armoured vehicles and air defence systems under existing contracts, ITAR-Tass news agency quoted the head of the country’s state military agency as saying.

Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said Russia was selling Syria MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsir short-range air defence systems and armoured vehicles.

Turkey Installs Anti-Aircraft Batteries Near Syrian Border
Thursday May 13, 2010 by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies

Turkey has installed Anti-Aircraft Hawk Missiles at a village close to the Syrian border in an attempt to prevent Israeli war jets from violating Turkish Airspace in case of an attack against Iran or Syria.

A Turkish paper reported that Turkey will not allow Israel to use its Airspace to attack Iran, Syria or any other country, and will act against any such violations.

The Anti Aircraft batteries were installed in Kayeel village, south of Turkey and located close to the Syrian b14 Mayorder.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Turkish military official stated that the batteries are meant to protect Turkey and its Airspace against any violations, including American or Israeli war jets should Israel or the United States decide to attack Iran or Syria.

Why Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev is visiting Syria
By Claire Duffett, Christian Science Monitor

…..In a joint press conference Monday evening, Mr. Medvedev, the first Russian head of state to visit Syria, said that Russia’s commitment to Syria was consistent despite “changes in the world.” President Assad, for his part, was quoted as saying that his country would “never forget how [Russia] stood by us during the battle for the Golan [Heights]” with Israel. He also requested Moscow’s continued support in demanding that Israel return the land it seized during the 1967 Six-Day War…. In addition to lauding their unwavering bond, the two leaders have used Medvedev’s visit to discuss increased economic ties. Russian gas giant Gazprom is expanding its presence in Syria with additional oil exploration and Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko accompanied Medvedev to discuss the project. The leaders also entertained possible atomic energy development. …

“US-Syrian relations have been deteriorating for some months now, and Syria is losing hope in any peace deal, and that means that there’s gong to be conflict between Syria and Israel,” says Joshua Landis, a professor at the University of Oklahoma. “Syria’s strategy is going to be to try to isolate the US in the Middle East, and to hang Israel around America’s neck.”

Russia seeks to become regional player in Middle East
Phil Sands, May 12. 2010, the National

DAMASCUS // The Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, yesterday criticised the United States for not doing enough to foster peace in the Middle East, warning that the regional situation was “dangerous” and could slip out of control….

Russia says may build nuclear power plant in Syria
Tue May 11, 2010
By Denis Dyomkin

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Russia may help build a nuclear power plant in Syria, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told Reuters on Tuesday as the Kremlin moved to strengthen ties with a Soviet-era ally in the Middle East.

Repairs to Syrian planes to go ahead: The US has authorized the German company Lufthansa Technik to upgrade the engines of Syria’s Airbus 320 and Boeing 747 planes which were grounded in Germany while undergoing repairs.

Drawing the Poverty Line By Dalia Haidar – Syyia Today

CBS News: Israel: Syria Replaces Iraq in “Axis of Evil”
2010-05-12 09:35:29.899 GMT

Home World TOKYO, May 12, 2010 Israel: Syria Replaces Iraq in “Axis of Evil” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Says North Korea, Syria, and Iran Forging Dangerous Coalition Font size Print E-mail Share 0 Comments Israeli Foreign Minister …

Israel and Palestine: The two sides move crabwise as indirect negotiations begin
May 13th 2010 | JERUSALEM | From The Economist print edition
I never said freeze

THE long-awaited “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinians have started, but if the American State Department had not publicly announced them, few people would have noticed. …. Building would not, he insisted, be frozen anywhere in Jerusalem.

Turkey, Russia Sign Agreement on Oil Pipeline
Turkey, Russia sign deals on nuclear power plant, pipeline to carry Russian oil to Europe

The two leaders also signed an agreement to work on a pipeline project that would pump Russian oil from the Black Sea port of Samsun in northern Turkey to the Ceyhan oil terminal on the Mediterranean in southern Turkey, where an oil refinery would be set up. From there, the oil would be shipped to Europe.

The goal of the project is to bypass Turkey’s Bosporus strait to alleviate the congested oil tanker traffic through the narrow waterway that bisects Istanbul en route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

Russia’s gas exports have made it the second largest trading partner of Turkey. Both sides have recently been working to improve their diplomatic relations and trade ties.

“By taking these steps, Turkey is taking its position as an energy hub to a much different level,” Erdogan said. “The solidarity with Russia on this issue is of utmost importance.”

On Wednesday, Turkey and Russia also agreed to mutually lift entry visa requirements for visits of up to 30 days in an effort to boost tourism and business. About 3 million Russian tourists visit Turkey annually.

Sex tape opens bright future for Turkey
Opposition leader Deniz Baykal’s resignation after a sex scandal removes the main impediment to democratic modernisation
Stephen Kinzer,, Tuesday 11 May 2010

Turkey is steadily strengthening its position as a regional power. Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, travelled to Turkey last week to discuss prospects for a new approach to Middle East crises. Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, also turned up in Ankara, and proclaimed that the two countries had reached the point of “strategic partnership”. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has joined with President Luis Lula da Silva of Brazil to shape a new compromise between Iran and the west on nuclear issues; Iranian officials welcomed it as “a good proposal for us” and said they were “optimistic we can reach an agreement”.

Republicans block Syria envoy confirmation motion Laura Rozen

Senate Republicans blocked a unanimous consent motion to confirm Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Syria this afternoon. Coburn has objected to 108 Obama nominations (and still counting).

Why Syria will keep saying ‘no’ to Washington
The US must get real leverage before talking to its better-prepared and a tougher-minded adversary, Syria.
By Bilal Y. Saab / May 11, 2010

Washington’s strategy of selective engagement with Syria has not produced any tangible results. The question is: Why does Damascus continue to do the opposite of what the Obama administration wants it to?

There are two reasons:

First, Washington still lacks real leverage in its talks with Damascus. To make things worse, Syria currently enjoys a relatively comfortable position in the region, partly because of Washington’s lack of a coherent Syria policy but also because of its own efforts to develop its military alliance with Iran, enhance its political relations with Turkey and Iraq, and restore its power-broker role in Lebanese politics.

The second, and perhaps more important, reason why President Obama’s strategy has failed is because Syria is not interested in what Washington is currently selling.

Israel’s fated bleak future
By John J. Mearsheimer
May 9, 2010, Chicago Tribune

President Barack Obama has finally coaxed Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. He and most Americans hope that the talks will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, that is not going to happen. Instead, those territories are almost certain to be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will then be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.

….. The best Obama can hope for is to push forward the so-called peace process, but most people understand that these negotiations are a charade. The two sides will engage in endless talks while Israel continues to colonize Palestinian lands. The likely result, therefore, will be a Greater Israel between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
But who will live there and what kind of political system will it have?

Israel Accelerates planning for future settlements :

[S]ince the construction freeze was introduced, several major neighborhood plans for settlement where either approved or advanced in the relevant planning committees. Those plans include together thousands of housing units in extremely sensitive places, and some of them were pending for years while consecutive governments avoided advancing them. When negotiating the construction freeze, the U.S. administration did not listen to Israeli voices who repeatedly warned of the shortcomings in a construction freeze that did not include a planning freeze. The result, as anticipated, is severe, and its first signal arrived less than a week after the moratorium was declared: The West Bank planning committee approved a plan for a new neighborhood of 360 housing units in the Talmon settlement, deep in the West Bank. The plan retroactively Koshered 60 illegal houses already built and allowed the erection of hundreds of new ones. The plan was pending for years and the settlers have failed time and again to have it approved. In the same way other plans were advanced since the moratorium was declared, most of them far from the 1967 line and others in East Jerusalem.

The settlers are preparing for the day after the construction freeze; the day of the de-freeze. And when that day comes, they are certain a construction boom of significant scale will commence.

Hizballah Prepares for the Next War
By Nicholas Blanford / Jezzine, South Lebanon Monday, May. 10, 2010

….”The next war is coming, 100%, but we don’t know when,” says Ali, a thickly muscled university student. “We have big plans for it. God willing, you will see the end of Israel.” (See pictures of Lebanon in crisis.)Like all Hizballah fighters interviewed for this article, Ali requested anonymity, as he was not authorized to talk to the press. Although Hizballah and Israel both insist they do not want another war, neither side has disguised its preparations for that possibility. Since the end of its latest bout with the Israeli military, in July and August 2006, Hizballah has built new defensive lines and firing positions, the fighters say, in the hills flanking the Bekaa and along the rugged, mountainous spine running up the middle of southern Lebanon.

….But the resolve of the Hizballah combatants remains unshaken by Israeli threats…. Although last month’s Israeli claims that Syria transferred Scud ballistic missiles to Hizballah remain unsubstantiated — and some military analysts are skeptical, given the rocket’s size and cumbersome logistical requirements — the group is believed to have acquired Syrian-manufactured M-600 guided rockets. The M-600, a copy of an Iranian rocket, can carry a 1,100-lb. (500 kg) warhead a distance of 155 miles (250 km), and its guidance system allows Hizballah to target Israel’s Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv from hidden bases in the northern Bekaa Valley. (Read “Israel Claims Iran Weapons Intercept.”)

Hizballah’s possession of the M-600 is “just the tip of the iceberg,” Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, Israel’s top military intelligence analyst, told a Knesset committee on Tuesday, May 4. “Hizballah currently has an arsenal of thousands of rockets of all kinds and ranges, including solid-fueled rockets, with a longer range and more accurate,” he said.

Besides seeking new weapons systems, the Shi’ite militia is also finding innovative ways to utilize older armaments, such as the guerrilla-standard RPG-7 grenade launcher and the recoilless rifle, a near obsolete antitank weapon. “The RPG-7 is old but still a good weapon,” says Ali. “It’s how you use them that counts. We are always studying new combat techniques.”

Israel’s heavily armored tanks are to receive a newly developed defense system that fires mini-interceptors to destroy incoming antitank missiles. Hizballah fighters, without revealing details, say they are training to overcome such sophisticated defenses by “swarming” Israeli tanks with low-tech antitank weapons.

Hizballah’s battle plans may also include having fighters infiltrate Israel to carry out raids and sabotage missions — a move that would be unprecedented in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israeli doctrine is to fight its wars in the territory of its enemies rather than on its home front. Says Ali: “God willing, we will go into Palestine next time.”

Despite the mounting tension, Israel’s pledge — and vast capability — to inflict catastrophic damage on Lebanon and the scale of Hizballah’s arms buildup functions as a kind of mutual deterrence that has brought the usually volatile frontier its longest period of calm in 40 years.

NBC/ here

“… U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources tell NBC News that Hezbollah actually obtained the UAVs from Iran and that Iranian soldiers are stationed just across the border to help operate them. At an airshow in Iran earlier this year, an aviation official showed off Iran’s UAVs to NBC News.”When you turn on the engine, it takes off and flies,” Abbas Fallah of Iran Aircraft Manufacturing told us. “It’s so easy!” We asked Fallah if the UAV was a “weapon of mass destruction.” “I don’t think so!” he laughed.

Iranian officials have both taken credit for supplying the UAVs to Hezbollah and denied it… (sort of “Drone Ambiguity”, similar to Israel’s policies…) U.S. and Israeli intelligence believes Iran gave Hezbollah a half-dozen UAVs which feed live video and have sophisticated guidance systems……. “The danger is that Hezbollah will now have the capability to inflict greater damage on Israel by more precise targeting,” says Joseph Cirincione, a weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Israel cannot simply take those attacks.”

Already Israel’s vastly superior military is embarrassed that a terror group’s little unmanned spy plane has been able to penetrate Israeli airspace — twice.

WSJ(5/12) Russia, In Internal Report, Signals Shift
2010-05-11 23: WALL STREET JOURNAL
By Gregory L. White

MOSCOW — Russia outlined, in a confidential report, a shift toward a more pragmatic foreign policy aimed at building closer ties with the U.S. and Europe to help modernize its outdated industries. The program detailed a shift away from the more confrontational line the Kremlin had taken in past years. It singled out the Obama administration for praise for its more cooperative approach to Moscow.

A Russian official confirmed the authenticity of the document, which was addressed to President Dmitry Medvedev by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. It was earlier reported by Russian Newsweek, which ran the document’s full text on its website. A Kremlin spokesman said the program, dated February, hasn’t been officially approved. But some elements, such as a deal with the U.S. to reduce nuclear weapons, have already been implemented. Its spirit was reflected Sunday, when U.S. and European troops for the first time marched alongside Russian forces during Moscow’s annual military parade marking the end of World War II.

“It’s a document that reflects the mainstream in today’s Russian political leadership,” said Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. The report also includes insights into Moscow’s relationships with former Soviet republics. It calls for taking advantage of the global financial crisis to acquire industrial and energy assets in the Baltics, Belarus, Ukraine and Central Asia — all areas where Russian influence is a sensitive political issue.

On many issues, the Kremlin hasn’t lined up completely with the West. On a visit to Syria on Tuesday, Mr. Medvedev suggested Moscow might be interested in nuclear-energy deals there. The U.S. has opposed any nuclear cooperation with Syria until Damascus allays international concerns a suspected nuclear-weapons program destroyed by an Israeli strike in 2007. On the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, U.S. officials say Russia has largely come around to supporting Washington’s efforts to tighten sanctions on Tehran. But the report leaked Monday names Iran as a potential flash point for renewed conflict with the West in the event of a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, which Moscow staunchly opposes.

DJ Israel’s Lieberman: North Korea Shipping WMDs To Syria
2010-05-11 12:11:11.687 GMT

JERUSALEM (AFP)–Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Tuesday accused nuclear power North Korea of supplying Syria with weapons of mass destruction. Lieberman’s office quoted him as telling Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at a meeting in Tokyo that such activity threatened to destabilize east Asia as well as the Middle East. “The cooperation between Syria and North Korea is not focused on economic development and growth but rather on weapons of mass destruction” Lieberman said.

In evidence he cited the December 2009 seizure at Bangkok airport of an illicit North Korean arms shipment which U.S. intelligence said was bound for an unnamed Middle East country. Lieberman said Syria intended to pass the weapons on to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia and to the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules Gaza and has its political headquarters in Damascus……

Missed Engagement: BY GARY ACKERMAN | MAY 10, 2010, Foreign Policy

In Congress, vitriol and partisan attacks are dominating the debate over the next U.S. ambassador to Syria.

Nuclear agency set to focus on Israel

The latest pressure is putting the Jewish state in an uncomfortable position. It wants the international community to take stern action to prevent Iran from getting atomic weapons but at the same time brushes off calls to come clean about its own nuclear capabilities. Additionally, Amano, in a letter obtained Wednesday by the AP, has asked foreign ministers of the agency’s 151 member states for proposals on how to persuade Israel to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty…..

Turkish Fm on Tripartite Summit of Turkey, Syria and Qatar
Monday, 10 May 2010

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Sunday that Turkey, Syria and Qatar condemned the statements aiming to escalate tension in the region. … “The participants exchanged views on some very fundamental regional matters. The three countries primarily reaffirmed their support to both restoration of a fair and permanent peace between Palestine and Israel based on related UN resolutions and establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” he said…..

Saudi Arabia reiterates stand on nuke-free Mideast: The Kingdom has reiterated the importance of keeping the Mideast region free of nuclear weapons and has said stability and security never come through the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction….

WSJ(5/11) Column: What Is Happening To Turkey?
By Bret Stephens

Istanbul — Last week I asked Bernard Lewis where he thought Turkey might be going. The dean of Middle East historians speculated that in a decade the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk might more closely resemble the Islamic Republic of Iran — even as Iran transformed itself into a secular republic. …..

Reading the news about Turkey from afar, it’s easy to see what Prof. Lewis means. Since coming to power in 2002, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dramatically recast the traditional contours of Turkish foreign policy. Gone are the days when the country had a strategic partnership with Israel, involving close military ties and shared enemies in Syria and Iran and the sundry terrorist groups they sponsored. Gone are the days, too, when the U.S. could rely on Turkey as a bulwark against common enemies, be they the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Today, Mr. Erdogan has excellent relations with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, whom the prime minister affectionately calls his “brother.” He has accused Israel of “savagery” in Gaza and opened a diplomatic line to Hamas…

So why do so many Turks, including more than a few secularists and classical liberals, seem mostly at ease with the changes Mr. Erdogan has wrought? A possible answer may be self-delusion: Liberals were also at the forefront of the Iranian revolution before being brutally swept aside by the Ayatollah Khomeini. But that isn’t
quite convincing in Turkey’s case.

More plausible is Turkey’s economic transformation under the AKP’s pro-free market stewardship. Inflation, which ran to 99% in 1997, is down to single digits. Goldman Sachs anticipates 7% growth this year, which would make the country Europe’s strongest performer — if only Europe would have it as a member. Turks now look on the EU with diminished envy and growing contempt. One time arch-rival Greece mostly earns their pity.

Chief among the beneficiaries of this transformation has been the AKP’s political base: an Islamic bourgeoisie that was long shut out of the old statist arrangements between the country’s secular political and business elites. Members of this new class want to send their daughters to universities — and insist they be allowed to do so wearing headscarves. They also insist that they be ruled by the government they elected, not by the “deep state” of unelected and often self-dealing officers, judges and bureaucrats who defended the country’s secularism at the expense of its democracy and prosperity.

The paradoxical result is that, as the country has become wealthier and (in some respects) more democratic, it has also shed some of its Western trappings. Mr. Erdogan’s infatuations with his unsavory neighbors undoubtedly stems form his own instincts, ideology and ego. But it also reflects a public sentiment that no longer wants Turkey to be a stranger in its own region, particularly when it so easily can be its leader. Some Turks call this “neo-Ottomanism,” others “Turkish-Gaullism.” Whichever way, it is bound to discomfit the West.

The more serious question is how far it all will go. Some of Mr. Erdogan’s domestic power plays smack of incipient Putinism. The estrangement from Israel is far from complete, but an Israeli attack on Iran might just do the trick. And it’s hard to see why Mr. Erdogan should buck public opinion when it comes to Turkey’s alliance with the U.S. when he’s prepared to follow public opinion in so many other matters.

Most importantly, will the Erdogan brand of Islamism remain relatively modest in its social and political ambitions, or will it become aggressive and radical? It would be wrong to pretend to know the answer. It would be insane not to worry about the possibility.

Israel ready for peace with Syria
11.05.2010, 13:21

Israelis ready to sign a peace agreement with Syria but will not give up the Golan Heights, Israeli President Shimon Peres said addressing students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Mr. Peres said that if Israeli troops leave the Heights, Hezbollah militants will immediately deploy its weapons there with thousands of missiles targeted against Israel. Commenting on the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Peres said he approved a peaceful solution to it but added that Tel Aviv wants solid security guarantees.

BBC MidEast: Asif Shawkat identified as deputy chief of staff on Syrian TV

Syrian Satellite Television leads its main evening newscast at 1730 gmt on 6 May with reports on the marking of Martyrs’ Day in Syria.

The channel reports that on this occasion President Bashar al- Asad visited the Martyrs Monument, where he placed a wreath after a 21-gun salute and the playing of the national anthem.

The channel reports that President Al-Asad shook hands with the high- ranking officials greeting him. Among those greeting him was Lt- Gen Asif Shawkat, who was identified as deputy chief of staff. This is the first official Syrian mention of the title and comes after Shawkat’s absence from the media scene for the past few months.

Shawkat had served as the head of the military intelligence until July 2009, when he was appointed as deputy chief of staff.

The channel adds that President Al-Asad held a lunch banquet in honour of the children of the martyrs on this occasion, which Shawkat attended as well.

Originally published by Syrian TV satellite service, Damascus, in Arabic  6 May 10.

Peace Now: Construction for largest East Jerusalem settlement has begun
Anti-settlement group says renovations within former police station did not require municipal building permits – official approval that could torpedo the new peace negotiations.
By Haaretz Service

The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said Sunday that renovation work has recently begun for the construction of 14 housing units in an old Israel Police station in East Jerusalem, where plans are in the works for the largest Jewish neighborhood in that part of the city.

Some 50 Jewish families currently live in six buildings in Ras al-Amud, where an American Jewish millionaire has purchased land for Jewish settlement.

The plan calls for the construction of 104 housing units on the land where the former headquarters of the Judea and Samaria police was housed before it was moved to a new building in Area E-1.

The plan involves high-end housing and the complex will include a swimming pool, mini “country club,” community library and parking spaces. A synagogue, kindergartens and a mikveh (Jewish ritual purification bath) are also planned for construction there.

A foot bridge will connect the new settlement with existing ones on the other side of the road. The settlement of Ma’aleh Zeitim across the street currently houses 51 families and in its second phase of development, which is currently being completed, another 66 housing units are being built.

When the two neighborhoods are completed and linked, a Jewish settlement of more than 1,000 people will be situated in the heart of Ras al-Amud, a neighborhood comprising 14,000 Palestinians

Fatah: Israel planning mall in East Jerusalem

Published yesterday (updated) 11/05/2010 20:03

Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israel is planning to build a shopping mall in East Jerusalem on three dunums of land owned by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Endowments, behind the US Consulate, Fatah Jerusalem Affairs official Hatem Abdul Qader said Tuesday.

The land’s trustee was handed down administrative orders, including eviction notices, from the director of the Israel Lands Administration, claiming the land as government owned rather than residential, Abdul Qader said.

The new building plan, filled as 4832 A in Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality, was ratified by all the necessary Israeli municipal departments and is prepared for implementation, he said.

The land tipped for evacuation and confiscation belongs to Ash-Sheikh Shams Ad-Din Al-Yamalli, and the land has been owned by the Islamic Waqf for over 400 years, the Fatah official added, and is being rented by three Palestinians.

Turkish ambassador to Syria: Relations developing tremendously…” (Thanks to

On May 7, the Saudi-owned London-based Al-Hayat daily carried in its paper edition the following article by its correspondent in Damascus Ibrahim Hamidi: “Turkish Ambassador to Damascus Omar Onhon told Al-Hayat that Syria and Turkey have succeeded in building a strong partnership and that their bilateral relations should be taken as an example for good neighbor and regional cooperation. The ambassador was quoted by Al-Hayat as saying: “The relations we have with Syria are to be an example for the Middle East states…… This relationship is very important for the stability of the region and I can tell you that we are in agreement over most issues and share the same views over most developments. But this does not mean that we have formed an axis against any third party. Quite the contrary. Nonetheless, this region has always faced many problems and it is very healthy that the two nations get closer and resolve their problems peacefully….”” – Al-Hayat, United Kingdom

Human Rights Award Goes to Imprisoned Syrian Lawyer
2010-05-07 14:16:17.480 GMT

Geneva (dpa) — Muhannad Al-Hassani, a Syrian lawyer currently in prison, was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the committee announced Friday. Al-Hassani, president of the Syrian Organization for Human
Rights, “has bravely defended human rights and challenged the oppressive legal framework imposed by the Syrian government,” the prize’s jury said in its statement.

Syrian-Qatari Holding Signs Definitive Agreement to Develop Syria’s First World-Class Medical Center in Damascus
Mon, May 10, 2010,

The project is the first of its kind in Syria and based on international standards Under the supervision of some of the best Syrian doctors practicing in the USA.  A significant rallying point for Syrian doctors living abroad. …The Medical City will be located in Damascus, in the West Mazzeh area……

…”The Heart Center, for instance, will provide the highest level of skills and expertise to treat a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases, utilizing the most advanced technologies available” says Dr. Kholoki, interventional cardiologist…..

The economic occupation of the Syrian Golan Al-Marsad – The Arab Centre for Human Rights in the Golan, December 2009.

Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………7
Section 1 : Annexation and Settlements – Paving the Way for Economic Exploitation .. 9
1.1 The occupied Golan – A Brief Geographical Overview …………………….10
1.2 The 1967 War and its Outcomes – The Road to Annexation ……………..17
1.3 Annexation – The Undermining of the Legal Status of the occupied Golan.. 21
1.4 The Settlements …………………………………………………………….33
Section 2 : The Business of Colonisation – The Untold Cost of the Settlement Industry.. 54
2.1 Economic Motivations Behind the Settlements …………………………..55
2.2 Economic Sanction and Restrictions Imposed on the Local Population…58
2.3 The Right of Sovereignty over Natural Resources ………………………..85
2.4 The Illegality of Settlement Products ………………………………………….87
Section 3 : Active Acquiescence – Settlement Products and the Failings of Europe.. 90
3.1 EU-Israel Trade Relations – A Brief Overview ……………………………91
3.2 Human Rights and EU-Israel Relations …………………………………..105
3.3 An Overview of Corporate Complicity …………………………………….114
3.4 Companies Linked to Settlement Production in the Golan ……………..117

Comments (64)

Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

51. almasri said:

Hillary is setting herself up for a new and bigger embarrassment than her famous recent spat with Bashar. While she testifies in front of the foreign relations committee about a deal the US made with the five plus one on a draft resolution for sanctions to be approved by the UN, China and Russia voiced their welcome of the nuclear deal between Iran, Turkey and Brazil.

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May 18th, 2010, 5:09 pm


52. why-discuss said:


Now that the new US administration under Obama is not in love anymore with Israel and it is pressuring it, the US is declining!

The US has been deeply wounded by the adventurism in Iraq (Heavily encouraged by Israel and the neo-cons), its economy is suffering from abuses and neglect by Wall Street, but it is still a power,
and still paying 3 billions yearly to Israel!
It is part of the Israel strategy to ridicule Obama
to prevent him from squeezing it even more. Therefore it is not surprising to read its supporters disparaging Obama’s efforts and implying that, since the US is becoming irrelevant, Israel should just ignore him.

About Richard Cohen, the author:
Richard Cohen is a real smart guy. I think he’s an Israel lobbyist in the sense that W&M defined the job, he is using his position to try and preserve the Jewish state against all critics (including Walt and Mearsheimer, who got him to sing the Hatikvah), but he is a smart guy. A few years ago he gave me one of my inner koans: Israel was a mistake. To hear an Israel lobbyist say this, with intellectual clarity, which Cohen promptly disavowed with a lot of emotional attachment– well, it helped me to think about Partition, and the fact that no Arab was for Partition, and it was their part of the world (though later Arabs were for Partition; and Israel rejected the UN division). Shlomo Sand says that Israel was created by a “rape,” but that the child of a rape deserves to live. Another mantra I go to.

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May 18th, 2010, 9:22 pm


53. almasri said:


I also realized from the article I quoted exactly the same thing you mention in your comment, i.e. Richard Cohen is pro-israel. But thanks for the additional information.

He is of course ridiculing Obama, but he is also pointing out the waning power of the US in the same sense as Rome and Britain went down. Yes, the US is still a power that can pay out 3+ billion dollars a year to israel. But, there is no denying its power is ebbing and the emergence of a new order replacing it is a historical certainty.

Is Obama really squeezing Israel? The Arabs would like to believe it. But in reality he is no different than any other US President since Adams as I pointed out in a previous comment. You could say that Cohen’s (and others) ridiculing Obama is a consistent blackmail strategy by Israel supporters to squeeze him instead of the other way around – and they used similar strategies with all other Presidents. The truth of the matter is zionism is deeply ingrained in the American culture, and unlike Europe which may have looked at zionism as a means to get rid of the Jews from its midst, the Americans associate with zionism very deeply, and that translates into popular commitment to israel. This commitment forces every US President to behave accordingly. I want to emphasize again that with NO EXCEPTION, since Adams, every US President made a point in showing unwavering allegiance to zionism in words as well as in deeds. You may want to review what Nixon, who was fatally wounded politically in 1973, did in order to save israel from total defeat and perhaps extinction

So it is time for the Arabs to look somewhere else and forget about America as their false mecca.

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May 18th, 2010, 10:29 pm


54. Hassan said:

Website run by academics and activists aims to improve communication and negotiation between warring lands

Syrian and Israeli bloggers try to resolve their differences online
from World news : Middle East roundup | by Ian Black
Syrians and Israelis are crossing one of the Middle East’s great divides to co-operate – in cyberspace – to explore ways to advance peace between their countries.

The groundbreaking website aims to bring together prominent Israelis and Syrian bloggers, academics and experts seeking ways to break the stubborn impasse in negotiations.

It will host the first Syrian-Israeli public online dialogue of its kind – a remarkable step for two countries which have been in a state of war for more than 60 years. The border between them – a UN-monitored ceasefire line on the heavily fortified Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967 – is closed. Nationals from each country are banned from visiting the other; there are no direct communications. But the authorities in Damascus have tolerated previous ad hoc internet exchanges and are thought to be happy with the launch of this permanent platform.

“It is the first time there’s been an organised effort on a specific issue between two enemies, and not only between Syria and Israel,” said Camille Otrankji, a Canadian-Syrian who is helping run the website. “This is an experiment. We hope it will take things a step further.”

Yoav Stern, an Israeli organiser of the site, sparked intense interest in both Syria and Israel when he reported on Syrian blogging in Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading liberal Hebrew-language daily. “We are used to looking at each other in demonic terms,” he said. “This is different.”

For the last year, academics, political analysts, journalists, businesspeople and consultants from both sides have been debating the issues in a private online forum. They produced a list of all possible objections to peace from both sides and voted for the 20 most commonly encountered in Syrian and Israeli societies. The group then produced effective counter-arguments to each of them.

Despite the emnity between the neighbours, negotiations between them have come tantalisingly close to a deal three times during the last 20 years before obstacles emerged to scuttle the process. Syrian officials say that 85% of the problems, including crucial security arrangements, were solved in negotiations with four Israeli leaders from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Barak. Turkey mediated four more rounds of inconclusive talks in 2008.

Still, many analysts believe Syria would never sign a peace agreement with Israel even if it secured the total return of the Golan Heights — unless it was part of a comprehensive peace settlement that included the Palestinian issue.

Syria is nervous about unofficial peace initiatives, such as one involving a retired Israeli diplomat and an American-Syrian businessman who proposed turning the Golan into a nature reserve. “We are making sure that these are not negotiations,” insisted Otranjki. “This is a communications exercise.” The organisers want to avoid the experience of Syria Comment,

a respected US-based specialist website that has been targeted by pro-Israeli bloggers seeking to pressure the Obama administration not to continue its cautious dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad.

The next step is for to invite experts and opinion formers from both countries to discuss the peace process and to submit constructive feedback for publication on the site.Israeli media reported yesterday that Assad had turned down an offer from the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, under which Israel would return the Golan if Syria severed its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

an Black © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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May 18th, 2010, 11:23 pm


55. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Looks like, the one who got slapped on the face is Ahmedi, and not Hillary.

What did surprise me, is the joining of Russia and China to Amrica.
The trigger to this was, may be, Iran’s “surrendering” to Brazil and Turkey. As a Turk or as a Brazilian, I would see this as a warning from China and Russia.

This is not about 3% or 20% enriched Uranium. This is about the political order of this world. China and Russia, as well as most of the UN members, have no desire to touch the world order (so far).
This is the Chinese and the Russian message to Ahmedi and khamenei.

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May 18th, 2010, 11:35 pm


56. Jad said:

I’m confused is it Otrankji or Otranjki?

“The organisers want to avoid the experience of Syria Comment, a respected US-based specialist website that has been targeted by pro-Israeli bloggers seeking to pressure the Obama administration not to continue its cautious dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad.”
I didn’t know that President Obama read SC! And that we all suck on 😉
I kind of knew that we suck but now it’s official BBC documented it.

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May 19th, 2010, 12:42 am


57. Ghat Albird said:

The pro zionists that comment on SC manifeest the characteristics of what
Rabbi Kook the Elder, another influential and much revered Jewish leader,
expressed a similar view: “The difference between a Jewish soul and
the souls of non-Jews — all of them in all different levels — is greater and
deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle.”

They cannot accept the fact that In recent months the equilibrium of the Middle East has undergone a complete shift.

– The Israeli armed forces, that had gone from one victory to another for decades, are no longer able to control the ground. During their offensive against Lebanon (2006) and against Gaza (2008), they displayed an increase of destructive power, but showed they are not longer capable of achieving their goals, in this case the destruction of Hezbollah and Hamas. In addition, their arsenal, equipped as required by the United States, no longer guarantees their domination.

Their tanks have become vulnerable to Russian RPG, when they used to constitute the major component of their blitzkrieg. Their navy is threatened by the land-sea missiles supplied to Hezbollah by China, which are now equipped with an anti-jamming system that they lacked in 2006. Finally, their air dominance will not resist for long to the proliferation of Russian S-300, currently being shipped to the region.

Golda was definitely dreaming when she said ,”time is on the side of the israelis”.

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May 19th, 2010, 1:06 am


58. Henry said:

It is Camille Alexandre Otrakji .

Check it out Imad Moustapha’s, the ambassador of Syria, blog.

“Furthermore, I received another email from one of my cyber friends, Camille Alexandre Otrakji, who apparently did not like the photo I had put of Ambassador Omar Abu Risheh, so he sent me what I admit to be a finer one. The photo he sent aroused my curiosity, having in mind that he is the creator and co-designer of the splendid website), so I sent him further questions to which he kindly responded. I printed the photo Camille has sent me, and took it as a present to Omar Abu Risheh’s son, my friend Shafe’ Abu Risheh who was pleasantly surprised and told me that he has not seen this photo before, so he gladly added it to his family photo collection.

Here is what Camille has written me:
Actually, the “experts” in Creativesyria refers to my uncle, Dr. Jean-Alexandre Otrakji, in NJ. For 30 years he has been collecting anythinghe could get his hands on about Syria, the Middle East and its religions and ethnic types. What goes on the site is the part I (who knew nothing initially) could understand, and in that way it was a good way to filter his knowledge into stories that most readers can understand (if I can understand them). Part of the reason I wanted to do this project was to share my uncle’s knowledge with anyone who cares to know. My uncle has purchased things like the private diary and photos of Col. Derouin, the first American military attaché to Syria, as well as the original collection of the wife of Richard Burton British council to Damascus around 1870, and many other travelers and diplomats who lived in the area. In that sense, complements Sami Moubayed’s excellent which presented Syria’s history from internal point of view. And the last part: the India photo (1966) included the Ambassador, an Indian government official (right), Mr Nahed Khani (Director of Syrian civil aviation, later director of Arab Civil Aviation organization in cairo), his wife Souha, and my Father George (glasses). My father traveled to 105 countries (some of them over 50 times, like Kenya) He was first in Syrian civil Aviation, now he is a semi-retired Diplomat at ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization). He is my other Syria expert, in addition to his brother Jean-Alexandre.”

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May 19th, 2010, 1:06 am


59. norman said:

Avatar-like Syrians and Israelis Set Groundbreaking Rules for Web Diplomacy

Share Comments Computer-generated actors, Syrians and Israelis, are coming together in unlikely times of warmongering. They are reopening a dim flashlight of discussions, yet this time on the virtual world of endless possibilities where the invisible hand of censorship cannot reach. They do not need a passport to move around in disguise for secret talks and they believe their story is worth telling.

On the front page of the website,, you find the Grand Mosque of Damascus, the Carmelite Monastery in Haifa, the Aleppo Synagogue, and the Minaret in the Old City of Jaffa in a choreography of religious and touristic photos reflecting an ideal yet sober initiative launched by ten Syrian expats unrestricted by the official tone in Damascus along with ten Israelis who feels at exile in their own country.

The bipartisan group defines itself as an “online discussion arena intended for raising and debating ideas central to the Arab Israeli peace process” and affirms in a press release that the initiative is “seeking to propose solutions to break the impasse of the stalled peace process” and its role is “facilitating dialogue that would otherwise be impossible through traditional means of communication”.

The website unfolds in two parts, Israeli objections to peace with Syria and Syrian objections to peace with Israel, reflecting the popular mood on both sides in a communication exercise that offers a new approach to this conflict instead of the mundane common ground setting at traditional peace conferences. The group has a separate undisclosed online forum for simulation of tactics and ideas to come up with counterarguments that are more complex and touch the core of the conflict.

The demography of the group on the Syrian side are expats from the United States and Canada, who left Syrian at an early age or not even born there, believe in secularism and pluralism, have their own approach to the conflict with Israel and does not bear the ideological burden of the last century. This group’s political and social thinking evolved in the West where they interacted with Jewish friends, and they ultimately see peace an avenue to consolidate the idea of the Syrian home and unleash its potentials.

On the Israeli side, there are names like the director of business and economics department at the Peres Center for Peace Yoav Stern along with a group of academics, journalists and former diplomats who have been lobbying Syrians for online peace talks since years.

This online interaction started in June 2007 when Syrian Canadian blogger Camille Otrakji launched an initiative to keep the memory of the Golan Heights in the 40th anniversary of its occupation by Israeli troops, which was covered by Haaretz and prompted a traffic of over 5,000 Israelis on “Creative Syria”. Since then, Israeli intellectuals and figures have been attempting to approach Otrakji by email but he replied back by referring them to another site, Syria Comment, run by Joshua Landis. This ended up having a space for Syrians and Israelis to comment, resulting in what could be an indirect public dialogue.

Otraki admits that Syrians expats activity on Syria Comment “pushed the envelope a little” by allowing Israelis to participate on a website widely read by the Syrian government. “I do not know, but I imagine some people in Syria might have been initially uncomfortable with the daily discussions on Syria Comment, but I assume that with time it became clear that there is nothing to worry about”.

Otrakji mentions how he was approached over seven times to meet with Israeli figures saying that “I always avoided being is a situation where I would meet Israelis face to face because, although I am a Canadian citizen, it is still considered a controversial thing for a Syrian expat to meet with Israelis”. “On the other hand, I never heard anywhere that communicating online was frowned upon… it seemed to be the right communication channel for regular people from two enemy states like Syria and Israel”, he added. Otrakji notes that Syria Comment was never banned in Syria despite “all the daring discussions going on for years. There was no special value in meeting face to face with Israelis that justified risking our blog’s acceptance in Syria”.

The idea for started in September 2009 with suggesting name of experts on both sides of the aisle to structure the debate on Syria Comment. This ongoing dialogue is run by a group email sent regularly to individual members and all decisions are taken in consultation and roll voting. Later in the project, the door will be open for researchers and journalists to pitch their suggestions and comments to be reviewed and probably posted if it adds value to the debate.

Otrakji talks about attempts to disturb President Barack Obama’s decision to engage with Syria and that many sides are invested in throwing accusations on Damascus saying “Syrian officials and diplomats try to respond to the endless accusations but their effectiveness is sometimes limited merely because they represent the official position and not their own, independent, opinions”. “I personally hope to be able to convince a number of American Representatives, Think tankers, and journalists covering the Middle East to read our arguments. We also hope a similar acceptance by regular Israelis although the situation these days is not very conducive to constructive communication”, he added.

If the Syrian expats’ intention is to change Washington views of Damascus, the Israeli group seeks to focus on Israeli public opinion to reinvigorate the peace camp, and the irony here is that the Israeli side of the project could undergo more pressure than the Syrian side, now the story is out, because of the changing dynamic in Israeli politics.

Otrakji says that the experience of the Syrian American businessman Ibrahim Sleiman, who once held secret talks with the former senior diplomat at the Israeli foreign ministry Alon Liel, was on his mind when he embarked on this project adding that the Syrian American businessman “made a mistake. No one, but Syrian officials, should negotiate border or water issues on behalf of Syria”. “Some of our team members also were asked in the past if we would be interested in type of peace conferences, but we simply could not see why would we, regular Syrian expats, add any value to diplomatic efforts taking place through the many intermediaries from the United States, Turkey, Europe and elsewhere”, he added.

On how the Syrian government would react to this project, Otrakji replied that “we hope that the reaction to this project in Damascus will vary between the neutral and the positive. This project is nothing more than a structured communication exercise that has a limited term. We are not going to negotiate, we are not going to lobby”. He affirmed that there is “no serious step” after releasing this website but a more academic one where those arguments and counterarguments will be later tested in university settings in Montreal to see how effective they are.

Joshua Landis, who participates in the project on the Israeli side, argued that Creative Syria and Syria Comment are trying “to express the Syrian reality and the Syrian point of view which are never freely expressed outside Syrian official newspapers”. He affirms that “this project has nothing to do with the Syrian government and therefore no one has take responsibility of it”. While the Lebanese American blogger Elias Mhanna, who runs Qifa Nabki website, represents his own Lebanese point of view in this complex online discussion. Mhanna talks about a personal rapport that was established over the years between members of the group “even if we never met, there are good intentions between us, we all want a reasonable peace deal”.

The main two key points in this groundbreaking project is that those Syrian expats enjoy somehow the trust of the Syrian leadership and this dialogue is not anymore about comments and indirect exchange of ideas, there have been direct communications by email for over a year at least. Both Syrian and Israeli governments could benefit from this project in this ambiguous and tensed period in the Middle East, but the horizon for this initiative is limited before it is even unveiled, its potential to forge a breakthrough is linked to objective factors beyond this communication exercise.

Follow Joe Macaron on Twitter:

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May 19th, 2010, 3:35 am


60. why-discuss said:

New (old) sanctions on Iran

If Iran is not building nuclear weapons, as it claims, then these sanctions have no impact whatsoever. China and Russia have opposed full embargo of weapons and refused boycott of the Iran Central bank. Only aggressive weapons that may carry nuclear heads are forbidden, but there is no embargo on defensive weapons or other weapons, so Russia and China can continue to sell defensive weapons to Iran.

I guess that after months of negotiations, the US has no choice than to get a resolution at any cost, even if it is a weak one and just repeat the previous one.
This face-saving resolution would only have a psychological effect. ie to show the world that the big powers can agree on something, even it is watered down to become almost symbolic.
Another victory of Obama, where he gives the impression that he is serious about Iran but when you read the resolution, he is only targeting the elusive nuclear weapons and nothing else.

The media will play their usual role in describing these sanctions as ‘tough’ etc…. Only Israel will not be satisfied as Iran can continue to arm itself with missiles non nuclear that may be a worse threat.

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May 19th, 2010, 3:49 am


61. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

GHAT, you’re something special. Really. I mean it.
Your multidisciplinary base of knowledge is shockingly impressive.

From theology (Rabbi Kook) to farming agriculture (souls of cattle), and ends with a first class analytical skills in military issues (blitzkrieg; S-300; anti-jamming system).

I’m sure that are extremely jealous, that SC have you,
and not they.
SC would be boring just like, without you.!!

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May 19th, 2010, 4:07 am


62. almasri said:

Ghat, why all of a sudden are you showing bias?

Why didn’t you mention in your previous comment that the israelis, after 2006, added armour to their tanks and are now building an Iron Dome?

You just mentioned acquisitions made by one party. That’s biased reporting, and zionists wouldn’t like that.

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May 19th, 2010, 4:36 am


63. Ghat Albird said:


You have a right to you opinion.

Obama’s exclusive meeting with Israel’s lobby.

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May 19th, 2010, 12:57 pm


64. why-discuss said:

I hope they will be more like him.

Elvis Costello cancels Israel gigs

(UKPA) – 1 hour ago

Elvis Costello has cancelled two summer concerts in Israel because of the treatment of Palestinians.

In an announcement on his website explaining his decision, the singer-songwriter spoke of “intimidation, humiliation or much worse” inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians and said sometimes “merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act”.

Costello told The Jerusalem Post earlier this month he was against boycotts, saying it would be like avoiding the US or England because he disagreed with the policies of their governments.

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May 20th, 2010, 4:15 pm


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