Assad in France: “There is no peace process; Europe’s stance cannot remain tied to the US role”e

As the US abandons the peace process in the Middle East with both Palestine and Syria, Sarkozy may see a greater role for France. Over thirty EU leaders (all retired) demanded that Europe step up its role in Middle East diplomacy.

AS “If the decision of the tribunal is based on evidence, everybody will accept its conclusions, not only Syria but also Lebanon, … If there is a decision based on a simple suspicion or political interference, then at that moment nobody will take the tribunal’s conclusions seriously,” Assad said ..AP” [Thanks to FLC]

President al-Assad met-French Intellectuals & Journalists
“Image of the Issues We View Differently”
(Dp-news – Sana)

PARIS- President Bashar al-Assad met at his residence in Paris on Friday a number of French elite intellectuals and journalists….

President al-Assad said, ” There is no actual peace process at the present time, given that the Israeli public, regardless of the stances of their government, are not ready for peace,” adding that it is necessary to work to prevent the deterioration of the situation in the region to avoid war, since the current circumstances are not favorable to achieve peace.

President al-Assad added, ”As things stand in the region, Europe’s stances on the peace process cannot remain tied to the US role, which proved its inability to move this process forward. Therefore, a balanced European role is needed towards all the parties involved in peace, and is capable of effectively participating in achieving just and comprehensive peace.”

President al-Assad said Syria attaches great importance to economic cooperation of regional dimension binding the Middle East and the neighboring countries to Central Asia and Europe, through establishing a network of strategic interests whose one of its natural results would be to serve stability and prosperity for the peoples of these regions.

The meeting was attended by Presidential Political and Media Advisor Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban and Syria’s Ambassador to France.

In a statement to SANA, head of the foreign policy department at Le Monde newspaper Alain Frachon described the meeting with President al-Assad as rich in ideas and deep analysis of the situation in the Middle East and Europe’s role and its weak effect on the political and economic level in the region.

“The meeting made us – as intellectuals and writers – understand and read Syria’s stance regarding regional and international situations,” he pointed out.

This was also affirmed by Parisian political sciences professor and researcher Bertrand Badie who described the meeting as “deep and vital,” adding that several issues were tackled during the meeting including the peace process in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan with deep analysis.

For his part, historian Henry Laurens who specializes in the Middle East said that the meeting with President al-Assad resembled a “tour d’horizon” of Middle East issues and Syria’s position on the regional and international arenas.

Laurens asserted that the vision with which Syria moves politically and economically on the level of regional cooperation bolsters its role as a main player in the Middle East, underlining the deep analysis put forth by President al-Assad in this regard and his frankness regarding various issues.

Assad Walks from the Bristol Hotel in Paris to the President’s Palace some 150 meters away without an escort or security. Assad enjoys breaking the normal security protocals to demonstrate that he is not affraid of being assassinated and does not have enemies. When Nancy Pelosi visited Damascus before Obama’s election, Assad drove her around Damascus is his person car without security.

Turkey-Syria-Jordan-Lebanon Strategic Cooperation Council in the making …

“..Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday that they were working on establishment of Turkey-Syria-Jordan-Lebanon Strategic Cooperation Council mechanism.

Davutoglu and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem held a press conference in Ankara.

Davutoglu said that Turkish-Syrian relations were improving and the two countries had a full cooperation, stating that they discussed the 2nd High-Level Strategic Cooperation meeting to be held on December 21. Recalling that 51 agreements were signed between Turkey and Syria last year, Davutoglu said that the 2nd meeting would focus on these agreements and projects.

“We believe this relationship is the one which will change fate of the region,” he said. Davutoglu said that they also discussed Lebanon and Iraq in their meeting. “Iraq’s stability is of great importance for Turkey and Syria,” he said.. ..”

Washington skeptical of France-Syria ties as two leaders meet
By Marc DAOU 09/12/2010,

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday during his two-day official visit to France. takes a look at a diplomatic relationship that the US does not necessarily appreciate.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Paris on Thursday to kick off a two-day official visit. It is the Assad’s first trip to France since November 2009. Though dialogue with Syria had been suspended by former President Jacques Chirac, relations between the two countries were renewed in 2008 by President Nicolas Sarkozy as part of his strategic pursuit of pragmatic diplomacy.

But the thaw in ties between France and Syria isn’t to everyone’s tastes, with recent diplomatic leaks illustrating Washington’s wariness.

Washington remains sceptical

The rapprochement has brought the Syrian president back onto the world stage after he had been isolated by the international community amid suspicions of Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“Sarkozy realized that today, no country, no matter how big and powerful, can conduct diplomacy in the Middle East without dealing with Syria,” Syrian journalist Majed Nehmé told FRANCE 24. According to the French presidency, the shift in the French-Syrian relationship enabled the election of Lebanese President Michel Sleiman in 2008, with the support of Qatar and the establishment of official diplomatic ties between Lebanon and Syria.

But the friendship between France and Syria is viewed with a critical eye from across the Atlantic. The US has accused Syria of backing the pro-Iranian parties Hamas and Hezbollah. Meanwhile, diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks and published in the French daily newspaper Le Monde show Washington’s skepticism about the effectiveness of France’s outreach to Syria. In the memo, a US diplomat wrote that France was convinced recent overtures toward Syria were making President Assad a more useful partner in the region but had a hard time coming up with concrete examples of that change.

The diplomat portrayed the rapprochement as a risk, since it had been implemented with no conditions imposed on Syria. “It should have been carried out more slowly,” said Georges Malbrunot, a journalist who covers the Middle East for the French daily newspaper Le Figaro. “The US, for example, instituted a system of give-and-take with Damas. In reality, France hasn’t gotten anything out of its relations with Syria,” Malbrunot said, “except maybe the opening of a Syrian embassy in Lebanon.”

The Lebanon question

Still, after receiving Assad in Paris in July 2008 for the first Mediterranean Union summit, Sarkozy became the first Western head of state to travel to Damas in six years when he visited in September of the same year.

The two leaders are expected to discuss the most pressing regional matters when they sit down to lunch at the Elysée Palace on Thursday. Other than the stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the main issue on the table will likely be instability in Lebanon. France is counting on Syria’s help in using its influence on neighbouring allies to ease simmering regional tensions.


¶5. (C) Lebanon: Kouchner surprised many by his quick plunge into Lebanese politics……Our partnership with France over Lebanon remains a top priority for the French, but we have divergent views on the stakes involved (the French fear a return to civil war more than a rolling back of gains made over the past two years to limit Syrian interference) and on tactics (the French prefer to press the Lebanese to seek a candidate of “convergence” and are reluctant to give the lead to the March 14 majority). Kouchner in particular is wedded to a process that accords parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri a prominent role in reaching a solution, partly due to longstanding ties between the two men. He does not seem nave about Berri, but has been prepared to accord him a key role that we do not think is deserved. In his last visit to Beirut, Kouchner challenged Berri to enter into dialogue with March 14 without preconditions. A frank discussion of the limits of our continued partnership is needed as well as our different views of the stakes and tactics to employ. The French concede that the presidential election process will play out until late November, which argues for Washington and Paris to stay in close and constant contact as the various Lebanese factions seek to play us off against the other.

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