Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
Qifa Nabki gives us some April Fools fun: Failure to Coordinate Grand Gesture Ends in Embarrassment for Israel, Syria. The only clue I will give is this graphic.
Syria cut diesel fuel prices on Tuesday by 20 percent, or from 50 cents to 40 cents a liter, as oil rates declined in world markets.
The move appears to be aimed at preventing the smuggling diesel fuel from neighboring Lebanon and Turkey where diesel prices dropped recently due to drop in global oil prices. Smugglers have been bringing diesel from Lebanon and Turkey to sell in Syria where prices had been higher.
Nadim Issa’s reporting has been invaluable on the Damsacus Stock exchange. Damascus Exchange Grants Licenses to Six Brokerage Companies
2009-04-01. (bloomberg) — The Damascus Securities Exchange gave its approval for six new brokerage companies to start operating in Syria. They are Ahl Al-Sham Islamic Financial Services, Mega Investment-Syria Co., Daman Al-Sham for Brokerage & Financial Services Co., Sanabel for Financial Investments Co., Osoul for Brokerage & Securities Co. and Shuaa Securities-Syria, the exchange said today in a statement on its Web Site.
Greg Gause: On Prince Nayef and the Succession Greg gives us a good antidote to much overheated analysis.
Mark Lynch on the Doha summit. His Aardvark on Cable at the Foreign Policy website is consistently good.
John J. Mearsheimer: Please tell me, where is Israel headed?
Assyrian سليمان يوسف Sulaiman Yousef, an Assyrian activist has asked that Syria establish a ministerial position for Assyrian affairs because the Assyrians are the original people of Syria who are threatened with disapearing and being scattered. (in Arabic at Levant News)
Shamel Azmeh’s Blog on economic matters in Syria and the Middle East should make a very good addition to blogs on Syria. It is smart.
on 1-2 April for a series of high level discussions with prominent Syrian politicians and opinion formers. During the visit Bill Rammell is due to have meetings with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and Europe Minister Abdul Fattah Ammoura. He will also meet the Minister of Awqaf (Religious Affairs). Discussions will be wide ranging and will include cooperation on counter terrorism, the Middle East Peace Process and regional issues.
British Man’s plea for wife held in Syria: A mother has been missing for more than two weeks since her arrest in Syria.
Syria jails dissident despite detente with West
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Reuters, March 15, 2009
A Syrian court sentenced a 64-year old dissident on Sunday to three years in jail for “weakening national feelings” after he published articles critical of the political system, human rights activist said.
The sentencing of Habib Saleh, who had already spent five years as political prisoner over two terms between 2001-2007, reflects a tougher approach by authorities in crushing dissent as Syria undergoes rapprochement in the West, they said.
“Saleh only wrote articles and he still got three years. He was not even active in any organisation,” said one activist who attended Saleh’s trial at the Palace of Justice. Mohannad al-Hassani, Saleh’s lawyer, said the law used against his client could only be invoked if Syria was officially at war….
As Netanyahu takes Israel’s helm, Syria skeptical of peace prospects: Syrian diplomats say Damascus is serious about making peace, and hope Washington will lean on Israel’s new government. By Nicholas Blanford
Even if the Netanyahu government agrees to negotiate, any peace deal with Syria has to be put to a national referendum. And Israeli polls show that more than two-thirds of the Israeli public are against handing back the strategic heights.
George Mitchell, the Obama administration’s point man on the Mideast, is expected in the next two weeks to begin putting proposals into action once he has finished building his team.
US officials with insights into the administration’s thinking on the Mideast say that Obama is serious about striking peace between Israel, Syria, and the Palestinians, but question whether the parties themselves are ready to make the necessary commitments for peace. They warn that Obama is being pressured to focus on the domestic economy, not foreign policy, and will not waste time pushing for Mideast peace if the Israelis and Arabs procrastinate.
Israeli Military Closes Probe: Allegations of Troop Misconduct in Gaza Called ‘Hearsay’
Israel’s Covert War on Iran Faces Disapproving White House By RICHARD SALE
Damascus set to receive MiG 31E planes: “”With regard to its external defense, Syria’s military remains in a defensive posture and inferior to Israel’s forces, but it is upgrading its missile, rocket, antitank, aircraft and air defense inventories,” Maples told the committee. “Recent Syrian contracts with Russia for future delivery include new MiG-31 and MiG-29M/M2 fighter aircraft.”
Buthaina Shaaban speaks with Fox News about US-Syrian relations under Obama
Syria leader explains failure of talks with Israel By BASSEM MROUE
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s president said indirect peace talks with Israel failed last year because the Jewish state would not make an unambiguous commitment to return all the territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war, according to an interview published Wednesday.
The comments to the Lebanese daily As-Safir were Bashar Assad’s first on why the Turkish-mediated negotiations collapsed. Previously, Syrian officials said they suspended the talks in protest against Israel’s war in Gaza, which began in late December.
However Assad outlined another major point of contention. He suggested Syria insisted on the complete return of the strategic Golan Heights, while Israel wanted to keep some disputed land around the Sea of Galilee, its main water source.
Assad said Syria had “specified some points” of land on the Galilee shores and the Jordan River he wanted returned.
“We asked the Israelis to prove their seriousness on these points and of course they agreed in principle,” Assad said. “But when it came to drafting, they wanted to draft it in a way that is somehow ambiguous and obscure,” he added.
“We said no. We do not discuss. These points are either approved or not. … The discussions ended at this point and the talks failed,” Assad said. The president’s office confirmed to The Associated Press that the As-Safir report was accurate.
Syria and Israel held direct talks in the late 1990s and early 2000. They also broke down over the extent of a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured from Syria in 1967. Israel sought lines closer to the 1923 colonial border and insisted on retaining sovereignty over the strip of land also claimed by Syria along the Galilee shores.
The late Syrian President Hafez Assad, the current president’s father, also insisted on the return of all the Golan, including the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. At a meeting with then-U.S. President Bill Clinton in Geneva in March 2000, the elder Assad spoke nostalgically of his own visits to the sea.
“I would swim in the Sea of Galilee, I would have barbecues there, I ate fish,” he told Clinton.
Israelis have argued in the past that a 21-square-mile area along the sea was originally Palestinian, not Syrian, and therefore need not be returned to Syria with the rest of the Golan.
Bashar Assad was also asked in the interview what concessions Israel wanted for peace with Syria.
“No Iran, no Hezbollah and no Hamas,” he said, referring to Syrian alliances with Tehran and the Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups. He did not say how he responded to those demands.
The two Mideast foes held four rounds of indirect talks mediated by Turkey last year.
Recounting how the contacts came about, Assad he agreed to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s overtures after “we reached a point when Olmert was ready to fully return the Golan Heights.”
Olmert’s office did not immediately comment on the interview. Government spokesman Mark Regev said the “basis of the talks with the Syrians was a formula that we know exactly what the Syrians expect from negotiations and they know exactly what we expect.”
“No progress was achieved with the Turkish mediation unfortunately,” Regev said.