Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
PARIS (AFP)–Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be joining Israel's president at a summit to launch a new Mediterranean Union in Paris next month, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday. "The Syrian president will be there, sitting next to, at the same table, as the Israeli president," Kouchner told parliament. Israel and Syria Monday wrapped up a second round of indirect talks in Turkey that both sides hailed as positive.
Syrians say they dream of peace with Israel
Reasons abound, officials say, to push talks with old enemy
By Liz Sly, Tribune correspondent, June 17, 2008
DAMASCUS, Syria — The long-abandoned border between Israel and Syria will be bustling with travelers and traders. Damascus hotels will be crammed with Israeli businessmen taking advantage of investment opportunities. Syrian tourists will flock to Jerusalem, making the 135-mile drive to visit the holy sites there.
It seems like an impossible dream, but it’s a vision that Syria — shunned by the Bush administration as a regional troublemaker — says it hopes can be realized if indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria bear fruit.
“When people can move freely between Syria, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt, a great change will take place,” said Syria Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad in an interview. “Our people will enjoy life without bad dreams of the martyrdom of their children, we will improve living conditions and we will open up to the international community. The impact of peace will be bliss for the entire region.”…..
A peace treaty would inevitably alter Syria’s relationship with groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, experts say.
“We are confident that the mechanisms of reaching a peace process will definitely evolve into a new stage, where new realities will be established,” said Miqdad, with reference to Hamas and Hezbollah. “And in this respect, Syria has always respected its commitments. We think if peace is achieved the situation will not be as it is today.”
The mere act of announcing the talks has created some of those “new realities,” said Syrian journalist Ibrahim Hamidi. Hamas is negotiating a truce with Israel in Egypt, Hezbollah is taking on a new role in the Lebanese government, and a wedge has been driven between the positions of Syria and Iran.
“Syria has reminded Hamas and Hezbollah that we are not like Iran. Iran believes in the destruction of Israel, while Syria believes in negotiating with Israel,” he said. “In diplomacy there are things that need never be written. Nobody now will be willing to show you the end game,” he added……
Israeli Envoys Propose Olmert Meet Syria's Assad
By Dan Williams, ABC News
June 16, 2008
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli envoys holding a new round of indirect peace talks with Syrian counterparts in Turkey will propose that the two leaders meet at a Paris conference next month, Israeli political sources said on Monday.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched Turkish-mediated negotiations last month but there has been no word on prospects for a face-to-face meeting given the gap between the sides' bedrock demands.
Both men are to attend a July 13 summit of a new union of European and Mediterranean countries in Paris and Olmert, who sent aides to resume talks in Turkey on Saturday, has offered to meet Assad on the sidelines, an Israeli political source said.
According to another Israeli source, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to arrange a three-way meeting with Olmert and Assad during the Euro-Med conference but has not yet received final confirmation from Damascus.
The French embassy in Tel Aviv had no immediate comment.
Sarkozy has invited leaders attending the summit to stay on for France's July 14 national day parade.
"The idea isn't necessarily to hold an hours-long conversation, just a face-to-face encounter that would, in itself, serve to take things forward," said one Israeli source. "This is one of the fresh ideas that is being raised in Turkey."
'Syria won't end Hizbullah, Hamas ties': (Jpost.com) "Syria will not give up its ties with Hizbullah and Hamas, the Syrian Expatriate Minister, Buthaina Sha'aban, said Monday. Speaking in a press conference during a visit to India, Sha'aban said "the Israeli demand that Syria shake off Hizbullah and Hamas as a condition for peace negotiations is like a demand that the US shake off its ties with Israel."
Rice in Beirut to meet with new Lebanon leaders
By ANNE GEARAN
The Associated Press
Monday, June 16, 2008
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put a U.S. stamp of approval Monday on a fragile new government in Lebanon that increased the power of Hezbollah militants.
Rice made an unannounced visit to Lebanon's capital to meet with Western-backed leaders of the emerging coalition government. The U.S. regards Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist group and has no dealings with it.
"Congratulations," Rice said as she shook hands with Michel Suleiman, the army chief elected last month to lead the government. "We are all just very supportive of your presidency and your government."
She introduced members of the U.S. delegation to him as they sat down for their meeting at the presidential palace.
On the flight from Israel, Rice told reporters her message would be one of U.S. support for Lebanese democracy and that they would discuss "how the United States can support the institutions of a free Lebanon."
Hezbollah, which is both a militia and a political power, gained veto power over the Beirut government in a compromise brokered last month. The deal ended 18 months of political paralysis, and followed bloody street clashes.
The U.S. would have preferred that Hezbollah not gain greater power, but has called the deal a necessary step for stability. ….
Asked by reporters why the power-sharing agreement was not a defeat for the United States, Rice said that while it's true that Hezbollah has gained political clout, it is also true that democratic figures endured. "Obviously in any compromise there are compromises," she said. "But this was an agreement that I think served the interests of the Lebanese people. And since it served the interests of the Lebanese people, it serves the interests of the United States. We support the democratically elected government of Lebanon," she said. "That's who we support."
Larsen: Israel Giving Syria Huge Gift in Haaretz (Via Friday lunch Club)
"…In a classified telegram to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Israel's UN delegation wrote that Larsen had complained that "Syria is receiving legitimacy for free." …"Europe is courting the Syrians because of the negotiations with Israel, and they are no longer being asked to give anything in exchange," the telegram quoted Larsen as saying…"
Latest diplomatic offer to Iran (ISIS online) HERE (pdf.)
Warren Strobel writes that: "McClatchy Newspapers' 5-part investigation of U.S. detainee policies at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere began running Sunday. Entitled "Guantanamo: Beyond The Law, it is based in part on interviews with 66 former detainees around the globe." The first two stories, along with interviews, photos and video are available" at : http://www.mcclatchydc.com/detainees/
Boaz Wachtel writes: "Here is the Jerusalem post article discussing the history of the Syrian-Israeli peace talks and on the water/peace canal Plan. An intriguing cover story in the Jerusalem Report also highlights some much neglected incentives to reach an agreement:
"A grandiose plan that would put an end to the acute water shortage plaguing Israel and its neighbours has been tossed on to the table as part of the tangle of fact and fiction, hype and spin, reality and fantasy, surrounding the dramatic late May announcement of the official renewal of Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations under Turkish mediation."
Also see: "Watering the roots of peace: An ambitious water project could help to bring reconciliation between Syria and Israel – for their mutual benefit" in the Guardian
Prosecution in Al-Hariri Tribunal to Start Work in December – UN SecGen
16/06/2008 Asharq al-Awsat
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asserted yesterday that the special tribunal for trying the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri has become a fait accompli.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq al-Awsat following an official visit to Saudi Arabia, he said "we are preparing the new venue for the tribunal in the Netherlands as agreed upon and we have the judges, the prosecutors, and the records secretary."
He said the prosecution in the killing of the former Lebanese prime minister would start its work at the end of the year after pointing out that the "prosecution team's work was postponed until the end of December."
He stressed at the same time that the investigators were continuing to submit reports regularly to the UN Security Council on the progress made during their investigation of the cases before the international tribunal.
Syria sent troops to Lebanon in 1976 and had a powerful grip on Lebanese politics over the following three decades. It withdrew its troops in 2005 in the face of international pressure and Lebanese street protests following the assassination of former premier Rafik al-Hariri.
Damascus still wields substantial influence over Lebanese politics.
France, which occupied Lebanon and Syria from 1920 to the 1940s has 1,600 troops in Lebanon as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force in the country's south.
(Reporting by Khaled Oweis and Francois Murphy in Paris; Editing by Matthew Jones)
Israeli Ministers Mull Plans for Military Strike against Iran
By Ralf Beste, Cordula Meyer and Christoph Schult
Deir Spiegel (After reporting that Asef organized a coup attempt in Syria with 100 others, Der Spiegel must be suspect)
The Israeli government no longer believes that sanctions can prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. A broad consensus in favor of a military strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities — without the Americans, if necessary — is beginning to take shape.
Robin Yassin-Kassab's ambitious debut of faith and faithlessness, The Road From Damascus, impresses Maya Jaggi
Saturday June 14, 2008
"Unbelief itself is a religion", says an epigraph to this ambitious and topical debut novel. The words of the 12th-century Sufi sage Ahmad Yasavi, coupled with a Pascal pensée on the limitations of atheism, open a book that satirises a kind of secular fundamentalism that can, it suggests, be as blinding as dogma.
In early 21st-century Damascus, Sami Traifi, a 31-year-old "failed academic and international layabout" born in Britain to Syrian parents, truffles among ancestral roots for a credible thesis for his stalled doctorate. Instead he stumbles on a family secret, an uncle broken by 22 years in a Syrian torture jail. Back in London, Sami's marriage to a teacher, Muntaha, crumbles as the astute, educated daughter of a refugee from Saddam's Iraq resolves to wear a hijab.