Posted by Alex on Friday, April 18th, 2008
Posted by Alex
Thanks to IDAF who translated the highlights of President Assad's talk during his meeting with Arab Intellectuals who participated in the "Conference on Pan-Arab Thought Revival and Arab Destiny" held in Damascus this week.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss and Palestinian activist Azmi Bishara were among the attendees.
Original article in Arabic here: http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/70804
Syria does not keep an equal distance with all Lebanese factions, nonetheless we acted responsibly and invited PM Saniora to the Arab summit despite all the insults directed at us from the Lebanese fraction that Saniora belongs to. We view our differences with some Lebanese political factions as temporary disagreement. We feel that the US is satisfied with the current situation in Lebanon and does not want to reach a solution.
Other external parties that have influence in Lebanon do not support the Arab initiative.
I met with Saudi FM prince Saud Al-Faisal here in Syria and told him that we are ready to cooperate, but you Saudis have greater influence in Lebanon, as the governing authority in Lebanon includes key leaders "that grew in your lap and live through your support and are directly under your influence". The opposition on the other hand was not manufactured at the presidential palace in Syria. It is not true that we have more influence on the Lebanese opposition compared to your influence on the government. We have a clear vision for the solution for Lebanon.
Any initiative from our part would require establishing good relationships with the other external parties with influence in Lebanon such as the Saudis and the Egyptians.
Collin Powel met with me in Damascus weeks after the fall of Baghdad and read what is now known as the "conditions list". The list did not only ask for expulsion of Palestinian leadership from Syria, but also included a condition that I never mentioned before, that forbids Syria from hosting Iraqi scientists and Iraqi intellectuals. Later we saw these targeted in Iraq.
We were expecting to see an Iraqi resistance emerging against the occupation, but we were surprised with the pace that this resistance transformed its efforts quantitatively and qualitatively, compared to similar experiences of resistance movements in Lebanon and Palestine.
Syria calls for an Iraqi national reconciliation congress that would draft a new Iraqi constitution.
The case in Iraq today is not a civil war, but a group of militias fighting to create a reality on the ground. Syria hosts over 1.5 million Iraqis from various backgrounds. No fighting took place between these sects in Syria. This proves that there are no inherent problems that make civil war inevitable… It is mainly the occupation that is behind the violence in Iraq.
Any talk on the interests of sects will not bear any fruit, and will not lead to development and unity in Iraq. Any constitution that is based on distributing interests based on sectarian divisions will not lead to stability. Al-taif constitution in Lebanon is a case in point.
Some in the Arab world might be waiting for the new US administration so they can decide their next steps on Iraq and other issues.
There is a joint Israeli-US interest in creating an enemy of the Arabs out of Iran. We know that Iran has its interests [in the Arab world] and maybe there were Iranian mistakes in managing some issues. This does not justify looking at Iran as an enemy of the Arabs. I told Arab leaders who blame Syria for its relation with Iran that we have to judge this relationship case by case and not take an absolute stance.
As the president of the Arab summit this year, Syria is coordinating between Hamas and Abbas.
If Syria's relationship with Egypt was in a better state, we would have managed to find a solution for Gaza's closure.
We considered the Yemeni initiative to be a solid starting point, and Hamas told us that they are willing to go with this initiative all the way, but the other side was not enthusiastic.
I think that there is a veto against Palestinian reconciliation. Syria does not have direct methods to interact directly.
I'm optimistic, everyday our situation is improving while, Syria's enemies situations are getting complicated.
Syria is immune from the sectarian problems, because there is an agreement on the national stance between the people and the government.
Israel wants to normalization with the Arabs instead of peace.
War is a possibility now. It will depend on US interests. For example, Israel wanted to halt the war (in 2006) in Lebanon at one point in time, but the US forced it to continue fighting. We understand that a [Syrian-Israeli] war would be a demand by this US administration and we are preparing for the worst. However, we do not see it happening. After the last war on Lebanon, I noticed an increase in the nubmer of visits by western delegations [to Syria], especially Jewish ones. I noticed that the discussions' nature has changed dramatically from threats and pressure [on Syria] into seeking a way to peace. Some frankly said that the last war should speed up the process for reaching peace. Israelis have offered us secret negotiations and we rejected. We do not have anything to hide.
I'm more optimistic than any time before.
Comments by Alex:
I think the obvious message from Syria is:
“Any initiative from our part would require establishing good relationships with the other external parties with influence in Lebanon such as the Saudis and the Egyptians.”
American, Egyptian and Saudi leaders are talking to anyone but Syria .. yet they want Syria and only Syria to solve the problems of Lebanon.
And they say that Lebanon is very important for them … but president Mubarak and King Abdullah (not to mention president Bush) do not want to meet with Assad.
King Abdullah even refused to meet with Lebanese speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri.
But he frequently meets with the President of Iran that many of his allies consider to be a dangerous man. And his media talking heads frequently express their country's disappointment in Assad's close relations with Iran.
Also this week, President Mubarak met with King Abdullah … it was their own Arab summit. The summit of the clueless Arab leaders.
In the mean time, a recent poll conducted in leading Arab states found President Assad to be the most popular Arab head of state.
Today Assad met with former President Jimmy Carter in Damascus. According to Haaretz "Carter is very upbeat"