Syrians to Participate in Madrid Conference Jan. 10-12

Hamidi

Ibrahim Hamidi of al-Hayat writes that Syrians will participate in a "Madrid + 15 Conference" to be held in Madrid between January 10 and 12. Israelis and Palestinians will be represented to discuss the possibilities of Peace. This is second track diplomacy with a difference, because a number of European foreign ministers will be there to lend legitimacy to it. We do not know who the Syrian personalities will be yet, but Ibrahim reports that they will participate "as individuals" with the "permission of the government."

A big contingent of Israelis are due to participate. Among them will be David Kimche and Uri Sagi, both past intelligence heads, who have been outspoken in calling for negotiations with Syria. Syria Comment has posted their articles here and here.

Spain's foreign minister said that the key supporters of the meeting were the foreign ministers of Denmark and Norway, who will participate. So will officials from many other countries. Americans will be there, both low-level officials and some notable ex-officials. Palestinians will be there to discuss possibilities for Arab-Israeli Peace, as will ex-foreign ministers from many other Arab countries. There are four main topics of discussion to include Arab-Israeli peace and Iraq. Here is the Hamidi's article.

شخصيات سورية تشارك بصفة شخصية وبموافقة الحكومة

 وفود عربية وإسرائيلية تبحث في تحريك السلام بدعم دولي في مؤتمر «مدريد + 15» بين 10 و12 الشهر الجاري

 دمشق – ابراهيم حميدي -الحياة 03/01/07

أكدت مصادر مطلعة في دمشق لـ «الحياة» أن مؤتمر «مدريد + 15» يعقد في العاصمة الاسبانية بين 10 و12 كانون الثاني (يناير) الجاري، في حضور وزراء خارجية اربع دول أجنبية وممثلين عن منظمات دولية واقليمية ومسؤولين اوروبيين واميركيين حاليين وسابقين. وبينما تأكد حضور وفود اسرائيلية وفلسطينية ولبنانية وعربية، علم ان «شخصيات سورية ستشارك في المؤتمر بصفة شخصية لكن بموافقة الحكومة». وبحسب نص الدعوة التي وجهت الى الاطراف المعنية، يرمي «مدريد + 15» الى تحقيق اربعة اهداف، هي «أولاً، ان جميع الاطراف المعنية بالنزاع العربي – الاسرائيلي قادرة على مناقشة نقاط الخلاف. ثانياً، تحديد توقعات وعناصر اهتمام كل طرف في ضوء المبادرة العربية للعام 2002 والمبادرات الاخرى بما فيها نتائج تقرير اللجنة (الاميركية) الخاصة بالعراق. ثالثاً، تقديم نموذج للمفاوضات الرسمية (بين الاطراف). رابعا، تحفيز التعاون بين المسؤولين الحاليين والسابقين ونشطاء المجتمع المدني».

وتعمل أربع منظمات دولية على تفاصيل عمل المؤتمر، وهي «توليدو انترناشيونال سنتر فور بيس» و «سيرتش كامن غراوند» و «مؤسسة البحر الأبيض المتوسط للثقافات» و «مجموعة الأزمات الدولية». لكن وزير الخارجية الاسباني ميغيل انخيل موراتينوس يعتبر «الداعم الأساسي» للمؤتمر بالتعاون مع وزراء خارجية النروج يوهانس غيهر ستوره والدنمارك بير شتيج مولر والسويد كارل بيلدت.

وبحسب المعلومات المتوافرة لـ «الحياة» تتضمن الجلسة الافتتاحية خطابات وزراء خارجية الدول الأربع والأمين العام لجامعة الدول العربية عمرو موسى والأمين العام لمجلس التعاون الخليجي عبدالرحمن حمد العطية ومبعوث الأمين العام لتنفيذ القرار 1559 تيري رود لارسن ومفوضة العلاقات الخارجية وسياسة الجوار الأوروبية بينيتا فيريرو – فالدنر، على ان يدعى جميع الحاضرين الى مأدبة عشاء يقيمها ملك اسبانيا خوان كارلوس. وتعقد في اليوم التالي «جلسات عمل» تتناول مسارات التفاوض المختلفة بحضور منسقين ومراقبين وخبراء من الأطراف المشاركة، اضافة الى جلسة تتعلق بدور المجتمع المدني و «كيفية تأثيره في السياسة» التي يديرها رئيس تشيلي ريكاردو لوغوس.

ويختتم «مدريد + 15: نحو السلام في الشرق الاوسط» بجلسة مفتوحة للصحافة حول المقاربة الاقليمية للشرق الاوسط. ويتحدث فيها مدير قسم التخطيط السابق في الخارجية الاميركية صموئيل لويس والمنسق الاوروبي لعملية السلام مارك اوتيه والمبعوث الدولي للشرق الاوسط الفارو ديسوتو، ووزير خارجية السويد السابق ومدير الوكالة الدولية للطاقة السابق هانس بليكس، على ان تعقد جلسة ختامية يتحدث فيها رئيس وزراء اسبانيا السابق فيليبي غونزاليس والمنسق الاعلى للشؤون الخارجية في الاتحاد الاوروبي خافيير سولانا. وتتضمن هذه الجلسة ايضا محاضرة تلقيها غابريلا ريفكند رئيس مجموعة اكسفورد للابحاث.

وقالت المصادر ان بين الحضور رئيس الوزراء الاردني السابق فائز الطراونة ووزير الخارجية السابق مروان المعشر ووزير الخارجية المصري السابق احمد ماهر، اضافة الى الرئيس اللبناني السابق امين الجميل ووزير الثقافة اللبناني السابق غسان سلامة. ومن المقرر ان يمثل اسرائيل وفد كبير، يضم الوزراء السابقين شلومو بن ودان ميريدور وروني ميلو وموشيه شاحاك ومدير الاستخبارات العسكرية اوري ساغي وديفيد كمحي المدير العام السابق لوزارة الخارجية. علماً ان ساغي كان منخرطاً في مفاوضات المسار السوري وميريدور يدعو الى «الانخراط» مع سورية. كما ان بن عامي دافع عن استئناف المفاوضات مع دمشق.

Monday Morning, the local Syrian English paper reports that for Syria the Golan is the key.

Syria, United States: Damascus daily hits out at American terms for dialogue President Bashar Assad:

For Syria and its people, recovery of the Golan Heights is the overriding priority The Syrian government daily Ath-Thawra has hit out at terms set out by the US government for heeding a bi-partisan panel’s recommendation to open a dialogue on calming Iraq.

“American efforts to present dialogue with Syria as an act of good faith are mean-minded as Syrians are not so taken with [President George W.] Bush as to perform free services for a country that supports Israel and cynically fights against Arab rights”.

Bush has dismissed the calls from the Iraq Study Group for dialogue with Syria, insisting that the Baathist regime first cease what he said was allowing the smuggling of men and material to insurgents in Iraq.

Ath-Thawra said the key issue for Syria was the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel seized in 1967 and unilaterally annexed in 1981. Peace talks between the two neighbors broke down in 2000. “You cannot tackle the Iraq question independently of the other issues in the region, because the root cause of all the problems is Israel’s occupation of Arab lands”, the paper said.

“As far as Syria is concerned, the recovery of the Golan Heights is the overriding priority”. The paper was echoing words already spoken by President Bashar Assad on a visit to Russia earlier this month. “They [the Americans] have to differentiate between a dialogue and giving instructions. We are open to a dialogue, but we will not take instructions”, Assad said.

British journalist Patrick Seale, who wrote the biography of former Syrian President Hafiz al Assad, father of current President Bashar Assad, said Sunday morning that the latest Syrian peace overtures toward Israel were serious.

Seale, who is close to the Syrian regime, told Israel Radio in an interview that Assad wants a diplomatic pact because he fears the anarchy in the Middle East, which he believes has been caused by the failure of US policy.

Syria: First things first
By Moshe Arens,  02/01/2007, Haaretz

Instead of trying to divine just what Bashar Assad's real intentions are in offering to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel, and whether his present intentions will also be his future intentions, some thought should be given to the basic premises of Israel's response to the latest Syrian overtures. What should Israel's position be regarding the Golan Heights and the 20,000 Israelis living there, and what obligations, if any, does Israel have to her American ally on this matter?

Having been offered the Golan Heights during negotiations by three successive Israeli prime ministers, there is every reason to believe that Syria expects a similar offer to be made within the framework of any future negotiations. It is, therefore, essential that Israel either reaffirm that position or else make it clear that this position has changed in the intervening years. So what should Israel's position be regarding the Golan Heights? Should it be considered an integral part of Israel, and therefore not a bargaining chip in negotiations with Syria, or is it to be ultimately restored to Syria and 20,000 Israelis removed from their homes, if other Israeli requirements for a peace agreement are met?

By what criterion should this issue be judged? That the Golan Heights was under Syrian sovereignty until 1967, or that it has been under Israeli control for almost forty years and 20,000 Israelis have been living there for many years? That security considerations require Israeli control of the heights overlooking northern Israel, or that a peace agreement with Syria will make such security considerations irrelevant? Or, more importantly, that aggression must not be rewarded?

Syria has attacked Israel three times – in 1948, in 1967 and in 1973. In the Six-Day War, it lost control of the Golan Heights and did not succeed in regaining control of that area during the Yom Kippur War. It is not the accepted practice in international relations for aggressors, who lose territory in a war they began, to be rewarded by a return of that territory once a peace agreement has been signed.

In other words, when attacking a neighbor, you have nothing to lose – whatever you lose in the fighting will be returned eventually. This is both immoral and nonsensical. Probably the only case in recorded history where this folly was practiced was the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979. Three times the attacker, and three times the loser, the Egyptians got back everything they lost down to the last square meter.

That's done. But should this be the precedent that applies to all other aggressors in the Middle East or anywhere else, for that matter?

The United States, presently leading the world in a war against terrorism, has made it clear that it does not favor Israeli negotiations with Syria, a malevolent member of the axis of evil, at this time. Should Israel proudly assert its independence, place its interests ahead of those of the United States and disregard the opinion in Washington?

Those who advocate this manly stance seem to forget that Israel and the U.S. are allies in the war against terrorism, and that allies have obligations to each other. After all, what is the meaning of an alliance, if not respectful consideration for each other's interests? Six years ago, Israel betrayed its allies in southern Lebanon, and deserted the South Lebanon Army. This will remain an everlasting blot on Israel's moral record, and as should have been expected, it turned out to be harmful to Israel's own interests.

To repeat this grievous mistake with our closest ally, the United States, a country that has repeatedly come to Israel's assistance, would be unconscionable and not likely to be quickly forgotten.

So it is all well and good to announce that the removal of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad headquarters from Damascus and the cessation of assistance to Hezbollah would be an important indication of Syria's true intentions, but first things first – Israel should make two basic things clear. We will respect the position of our allies in Washington, and we have no intention of rewarding Syrian aggression. And one other thing: Israel will not negotiate while a gun is being held to its head. The message from Damascus is you either negotiate or we go to war. This should not work on Israel.

When all this is well understood in Damascus, in time, the way may be opened for negotiations with Syria.

Help, he wants peace!
By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, Dec. 30, 2006

In one of the news broadcasts that he presented last week on Channel 1 television, Haim Yavin defined the Syrian feelers as an "escalation in the peace attack," no less. No one could better describe the panic that Syrian President Bashar Assad is arousing in Israel. Attacks are something we understand, and escalation is also a user-friendly concept for Israelis. Therefore, it appears that peace has no meaning unless it comes in the form of an attack.

The alarmed and the perplexed are split into two groups. The first consists of those who are convinced that everything Assad does is aimed at advancing his own narrow interests: ridding Syria of the stigma of being a country that supports terror, luring investors to the country and freeing himself from pressure over the Lebanese issue. In other words, becoming a country like any other country. This group of believers forgets that these are precisely Israel's demands of Assad. But it wants eternal guarantees that after the Syrian president gets the Golan Heights back and no longer heads a country that supports terror, he will not turn on his heels and laugh out loud at the stupid Israelis. This is a reasonable demand, but it cannot be fulfilled before negotiations are actually held. Certainly such a demand cannot be a precondition.

The demand that Syria sever relations with Iran is also a deal-breaker. Israel did not demand this of Turkey, or of the leaders of the Islamic republics that broke away from the Soviet Union, when it signed peace treaties with them. It will also not demand this of Saudi Arabia, if and when a peace agreement is signed with that country. And how is it possible to explain Syria's willingness to sign a peace agreement with Israel when its relations with Iran are so close? According to the alarmists, this is of course another lie, or at least part of a nefarious plot. Therefore, it is not superfluous to ask why Iran has not reacted to Syria's feelers toward Israel, just as it is possible to wonder why Iran is not demanding that Turkey cease doing business with Israel. The answer lies in a mosaic of interests that goes far beyond the simplistic definition of the "axis of evil" or the division of the world into Shi'ites and Sunnis.

The precondition that Syria close the bases of Palestinian organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad is especially interesting. If the headquarters of these organizations are fated to live outside the territories, would it not be better for them to operate from a country that has a peace agreement with Israel, instead of being expelled to a hostile country from which they can operate as they please?

The second group of alarmists offers the learned argument that Assad cannot mean real peace, because such a peace would topple him, his regime and his minority sect, which controls the country. Alternatively, spokesmen for this group take refuge in the assessment that even if there is peace with Syria, it will undoubtedly be a very cold peace. They are forgetting that the younger Assad has already proposed peace, while the elder Assad already held discussions with Israel and obtained concessions and even talked about normalization. Is Bashar Assad risking more now than ever before? One can confidently assume that an improvement in Syria's economic situation in the wake of an agreement with Israel, as well as the return of the Golan Heights, would do wonders for Assad's standing.

There is nothing wrong with Assad currently wanting to advance "only" Syrian interests. This is precisely the motivation for which Israel should be looking. If peace with Israel serves his interests, it would be wise to set up a table somewhere and sit negotiators around it – people who would pull out what was concluded with Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak and tell Assad: This is where we are continuing from, and here is our list of new demands.

Assad's intentions are not a matter for trust or faith, nor for prior examination. Rather, they are a matter for negotiations whose sole aim is to reach peace with Syria. Only in this way will it also be possible to shake off the profound self-righteousness that holds that "we" owe it to our fighters and our homeland at least to try. It is not trying that is needed here, but rather action and achievement. Similarly, the main consideration cannot be how we will look to the world if we refuse to negotiate with Assad, but rather how life in Israel will look if we respond in the affirmative.

Comments (7)


1. MSK said:

Dear Josh,

the Madrid meeting is, indeed, good news. However, the non-naming of the Syrian participants – the article only says that “Syrian personalities will participate in the conference in a personal capacity but with the consent of the government” – sounds a bit strange. Everybody else is named …

On another issue: what exactly is your personal attitude towards your comments section? Usually, blog comments sections serve as a sphere of interaction between visitors and bloggers. However, despite your profligate posting you don’t actually interact with any commenters, even when they have clear & precise arguments or questions on topics of Syrian issues.

Also, I remember you once saying that you’re happy to have yours be a discussion space for various points of view.

Well, to be frank – I don’t see that happening much. In order for a comment section to be a productive site for discussion it has to be moderated. Fully copy/pasted articles have to be removed and replaced by links. When arguments seem to get out of control and/or descend into verbal fights, they have to be calmed down. Trolls have to be weeded out.

Despite the fact that, if I remember correctly, 4 or 5 people have administrator rights to this blog there doesn’t seem to be any moderation.

More than 50% of this blog’s comment section consists of petty fights and the propagation of rumors and stereotypes.

I’m slowly begining to understand why a lot of people don’t read comment sections at all.

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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January 3rd, 2007, 7:07 pm

 

2. Louai said:

Dear All,
This morning I posted an article in this blog
and after an hour it was not posted so I postedit again UNDER THE WRITER NAME (KOUDMANI)And I think I forget to add the I in the end. her full name is BASMA KOUDMANI. I went to work this morning only to find out that both posts were posted and I did not intend for either to go under different name or made multiple posts.
http://www.free-syria.com/en/loadarticle.php?articleid=13966
Bye for Now and I am not sure if I want to post anything again. Iam kiding.

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January 3rd, 2007, 7:12 pm

 

3. Akbar Palace said:

“Seale, who is close to the Syrian regime, told Israel Radio in an interview that Assad wants a diplomatic pact because he fears the anarchy in the Middle East, which he believes has been caused by the failure of US policy.”

Hmmm, the “failure of US policy” now means Syria wants peace.

We need more “failures” like this one.

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January 3rd, 2007, 7:19 pm

 

4. John Kilian said:

“It is not the accepted practice in international relations for aggressors, who lose territory in a war they began, to be rewarded by a return of that territory once a peace agreement has been signed. ”

I certainly understand this sentiment, it is logical enough. But the way I see it, it is like a hockey player going to the penalty box for fighting. It is a major penalty, and five minutes is a long time to sit off the ice. Attacking your neighbor is a major offense, and forty years is a long to lose control of your land. Maybe fifty years is too long.

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January 3rd, 2007, 7:46 pm

 

5. Ehsani2 said:

During the previous thread, one of the commentators highlighted the new amendment to the election law after it was made public this morning. While it is not related to the main post here, I thought that it was important for me to post my own thought on the topic.

Idaf’s conclusion regarding the new amendment to the election law was that “it will limit the bribes that dominate election campaigns in Syria.”

First, this amendment only applies to the independents, which make up 84 of the 253-seat assembly. Please note that this is conveniently just below the one third that is needed to implement article 91 of the constitution for example (it is 33.2%). Moreover, 43 of the 84 so-called independents must belong to the “ummal and Fallaheen” group. The other 41 can come from “other” classes of society. The Baath party (134 members) dominates the proceedings by being a member of the National Progressive Front, a grouping of parties that attempts to give the impression that this is not a one-party political system. The 35 members that make up this group are supposed to represent Communists, Arab Socialists and Nationalists.

For those interested in the constitution and its amendments, you can visit:

http://www.parliament.gov.sy/ar/law.php

This brings us back to the $57,000 equivalent that is the new spending cap for the 84 independent candidates. Remember that 43 of them belong to the “ummal and Fallaheen” group. Presumably, these individuals could not possibly spend $57,000 on campaign advertising. This leaves us with 41 members who will have to pay a penalty of 10 times any excess spending over the cap. Moreover, they are forbidden from offering any “services, monetary or in-kind help” to individuals, unions, sports clubs or any non-officials parties. Parties that accept to receive any such help from candidates are also also forbidden from doing so.

Instead of making the system more democratic by increasing the percentage of independents that can run, the new amendment is designed to exclude independently wealthy candidates from ever thinking of applying.

This rubber-stamping branch of government was already in a shameful state of existence. Idaf’s statement above did nothing to highlight this fact. Instead, it gave the socialist/communist impression that wealthy candidates must be bad for the country since they can buy their way in this already ineffective body.

For true change to take place, Mr. Assad should have raised the 33.2% limit of the independent candidates rather than worry about how much they spend on their advertising campaigns. That would have been served the country more than this populist self-serving draconian amendment ever will.

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January 3rd, 2007, 7:55 pm

 

6. Louai said:

EHSANI2
Yourrrrr goooood.

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January 3rd, 2007, 8:20 pm

 

7. Ford Prefect said:

Kilian, your observation is correct. Further, Mr. Moshe Arens view mysteriously ignores the fact that Israel too is an aggressor. Many conscientious Israelis have observed and spoke out against the constant Israeli aggressions. Unfortunately, the victors always write history. Both sides must drop their aggressions and reach peace.

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January 4th, 2007, 4:47 pm

 

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