Posted by Joshua on Saturday, June 14th, 2008
Siddharth Varadarajan has sent me a link to his most interesting interview with Bashar al-Assad the other day. It is at his blog: Reality, one bite at a time . If you cannot read Blogger, here is the interview in The Hindu. Here is a smaple of the interview:
Varadarajan: Do you think if things move fast, you will make a visit to Beirut?
President Assad: Yes, and about the other aspect as I mentioned because we proved that, we can see now that many Lebanese noted that Syria is working for the sake of Lebanon; the interests of Syria and Lebanon are common. So, the relations should move in the right direction to be better in the future. But the visit of the president, this is related to the formation of the national unity government in Lebanon first. Second, this is related to the discussion between me and the Lebanese president; we have not had any discussion about my visit. But, when I spoke to him after the Doha Accord, I told him that we are ready to help Lebanon and help him personally in his mission. He said we want the help of the Syrians in the future and we said we are ready; we are still waiting.
Varadarajan: And will this lead to opening an embassy in Beirut?
President Assad: Yes, and we mentioned this three years ago and we said that we do not have any problem. But, the problem is that if you have bad relations with any country, you usually withdraw your ambassador and close the embassy. So, how do you open an embassy with a country or government with whom you have bad relations not good ones? Now, when they have this national unity government, it is going to be normal for Syria to open an embassy in Lebanon.
Varadarajan: I have been struck by the paradox in Syria's policy where internally Syrian society is very strongly secular and you oppose sectarian politics and you do not allow that kind of politics in your country, but most of your best friends in the region all come from sectarian backgrounds like Hamas, Hizbollah and even the Iranians. Is this a problem for Syria?
President Assad: Actually in politics, you have to be pragmatic; the first question that you have to ask is who is effective in our region, you do not ask who is like you or who is not. Hamas is effective and important in Palestine. Hizbollah is a very important party in Lebanon, and Iran is a very important country in the region. Without those players, you cannot have stability, you cannot have any solution and you cannot reach anything you are looking for. So, whether you like it or not, or whether you agree with or disagree, you have to deal with them. You do not say like this administration 'black and white', 'evil and good' and things like this; this does not work like this in politics. If you want to solve problems, you have to deal with the players.
Turkey, Syria eye nuclear energy cooperation: agency
Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:57am EDT
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey and Syria are considering setting up a joint energy company and could build joint nuclear power plants for electricity, Syria's oil minister was quoted as saying on Friday.
Turkey's state-run Antolian agency quoted Oil Minister Sufian Alao as saying that the two countries will announce the establishment of a joint energy company in the coming days, which could explore for oil in Turkey, Syria and in third countries.
"We could also enter into cooperation in the nuclear field. I spoke to (Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler) Mr. Guler on cooperation. In the future we could found joint nuclear power plants for electricity production," he was quoted as saying.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei talks to SPIEGEL about Israel's propensity for unilateral action against countries like Syria, the US's tendency to keep the IAEA in the dark and the threat of nuclear terrorism …
"…..The inspection trip will take place from June 22-24, and will be led by my deputy, Olli Heinonen. But it is doubtful that we will find anything there now — assuming there was anything there in the first place…..
Of course, we could toss out everything in the way of collective security systems that we have built up since World War II and say: Let's go back to the Middle Ages and pull out our clubs. This is a decision that must depend upon the international community of nations. I am horrified by how little protest the military action in Syria has triggered…….It's a deafening silence. I especially regret having to say this, but the Arab world is now in a more disastrous state than ever before. There is no longer any solidarity, a common goal or regional cooperation — just mistrust everywhere. Incompetently and corruptly governed, many countries in the Middle East are lurching from one crisis to the next, creating breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism. But the real challenge is to wipe out the roots of violence — lack of opportunity and bitter poverty…."
On the horns of dilemma
By Shmuel Meir
Te peace talks with the Syrians took us by surprise. The public discourse is divided between strategists, who hold on to issues of topography and differences in height (”They are up there and we are below – a recipe for disaster”), and the peace-seekers, who have become giddy from the air of the summits (”Everything has already been tied up”).
On the side of the debate are the residents of the Golan Heights (17,000 now, as compared with the 250,000 Syrians who lived there before 1967), and there are also the voices reminding us of the property rights over thousands of dunams that were legally acquired and registered by the Jewish National Fund. As if a private property right imparts sovereign status.
Above all, the Syrian peace is characterized by periodicity. It breaks out, fades away and disappears until the next time around. As if there is no price to be paid for inexplicable delays. As if the peace that was achieved with Egypt and Jordan will never be affected by a situation of no peace with Syria. As if a superfluous war, like that of the summer of 2006, is not a sufficient price.
The public has become accustomed to not receiving explanations from its leaders. Shimon Peres broke off the negotiations with Syria in 1996 on the pretext of elections whose date he had fixed. Ehud Barak allowed the talks of 2000, and the decisive meeting between Bill Clinton and Hafez Assad, to evaporate. The answer to the question of why peace has not been achieved with Syria remains under wraps. The dramatic reversal in the Syrian position in 1991 – readiness for a full peace under the aegis of the United States – was considered insignificant by us and became non-existent. That, even though the Syrians did not back off from their stance, despite the dozens of Syrians who were killed during the Second Lebanon War and despite the incident of September 2007…..
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Syria: Repression of Activists Continues Unabated
Engagement With Damascus Should Include Human Rights (Washington, DC, June 12, 2008) – Western countries looking to increase engagement with Syria should know that Syrian authorities continue to arrest, try, and harass political and human rights activists, Human Rights Watch said today. In May 2008, Syrian authorities detained a political writer, began the trial of two activists, and restricted the travel of at least seven others. Amidst increasing calls in Western countries to increase engagement with Syria, Human Rights Watch urged that an improvement in the treatment of these activists be at the heart of any future talks with the Syrian authorities.