Syria says Golan Heights on Annapolis agenda

Syria says Golan Heights on Annapolis agenda
Friday, November 23, 2007; 10:17 AM

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – The United States has agreed to put the occupied Golan Heights on the agenda of the Annapolis peace conference but Syria will decide whether to attend when it receives the schedule, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Friday.

"The United States has sent confirmation that it will include the Syrian-Israeli track… the Golan… on the Annapolis schedule," the Syrian news agency quoted Moualem as saying.

"Syria will decide whether to attend or not in light of the schedule it receives," he added.

There was no immediate comment from Washington.

The Damascus government has repeatedly said it would only attend the U.S.-hosted conference, which aims to restart talks on Palestinian statehood, if the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, are on the agenda.

Moualem was in Cairo for a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to prepare a common strategy for the Annapolis conference on November 27. He said Syria learnt about the inclusion of the Golan through Arab ministers who contacted Washington about the issue.

Pro-U.S. Arab governments have been putting pressure on Syria to attend the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, even if the Golan is not explicitly on the agenda. Diplomats say there will be a session about comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace that addresses the Golan.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, David Welch, said on Tuesday that the Syrians were entitled to "express their views and their national interests" at the conference.

"We think it (Annapolis) represents an opportunity for all those who would like to make meaningful steps toward peace to come and represent their views," he said, when asked whether Syria could raise the issue of the Golan Heights at Annapolis.

"We won't turn off the microphone," said Welch.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Comments (15)

Observer said:

The conference is not about peace but as David Brooks put a few weeks ago about shoring up the weak Arab regimes in their fear of Iranian influence. Putting the Golan on the agenda is a bone sent to the Syrians so that the other Arab regimes can remain on the fence to the last minute. They all need each other’s cover for attending a stillborn conference and not have their faces blackened on Wed. Unless the administration is going to pull a magic rabbit out of its hat, this is a waste of time. I agree with Ehsani2 about how flexible and adaptable the regime in Syria has become.

November 23rd, 2007, 4:11 pm


why-discuss said:

The deadlock in Lebanon is one more incentive for the US to bow to Syria’s demand and include the Golan issue on the agenda. If this is true then Syria will go, even though it may just be a US manoeuver to get some legitmacy to this meeting. For sure, Syria will get lots of attention and pampering as it is the only arab country who has a deep and historical relationship with US only competing power in the region, Iran.
Finally the only positive result of Anapolis for Syria may be the possible mending of the relatiosnhip between Syria and the arab countries, for what it is worth. Yet, that will impact Lebanon’s balance of power in favor of Syria’s allies. An assassination in Lebanon after Anapolis may flip that again, and I guess this is highly possible.

November 23rd, 2007, 5:16 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

Army takes over Lebanon Security:

November 23rd, 2007, 6:49 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I expect Amr Moussa to come out of the conference and say it was a failure,I hope I am wrong, but what Rice wants is different from what Cheney wants,and all previous proposal were nothing but talk, no results
W.D. said
“Finally the only positive result of Anapolis for Syria may be the possible mending of the relatiosnhip between Syria and the arab countries”
Not Lebanon,not KSA,or Egypt.
Bush failed in Iraq,failing in Lebanon, and will fail with the palastine issue.

November 23rd, 2007, 7:10 pm


Politically Alienated said:

Disagree with my friend OBSERVER that Putting the Golan on the agenda is a bone sent to the Syrians. I believe it is the vice versa where all external non-Arab players are fighting to get Syria on the table. Golan (without mentioning the word “Heights”) [shall] be the first item on the agenda. If attendees are really serious to follow a certain agenda then Syria is the key to any solution that may lead to something called “peace”. No Syria…No peace! we need to get this phrase panetrating our skulls and seriously believe in it.

On the other hand, Syria’s involvment in this conference is, in a way or another, affected by the person to take over as a president in Lebanon. Lebanon’s history proves, even before the Syrian physical presence in Lebanon, that electing a president was always a trouble and would stay a trouble even without having Syria interefring in the selection process. Syria would never cross the U.S. boarder before a president is in place…

Let the war takes place, so we can have a more solid peace after then. Hope this is not the agenda of what is so-called 14th March.

November 23rd, 2007, 8:22 pm


CWW said:

First, Bashar says he will come if invited. Now, only if he’s at the top of the agenda. It looks like Bashar will pull out when he sees that this is a conference focusing on Israeli-Palestinian Peace. Perhaps, he’ll attempt to play the role spoiler.

November 23rd, 2007, 10:07 pm


JohnPaulJustLikeThePope said:

Good things came out of the Camp David accords. The symbolism behind another summit in Maryland might be a sign of Rice’s commitment to a stronger role for diplomacy in US foreign policy. Former President’s Clinton and Carter have her ear, and it may be she is separating herself from Neocon’s with a hawkish bent.

Syria should take the US up on its offer. Even if nothing comes of the summit, this is a chance for Arab nations to support a diplomatic approach towards the region.

November 24th, 2007, 12:30 am


norman said:

U.S. Praises Saudis, Syria for Attending Summit
Listen: NPR’s Peter Kenyon

Listen: Ambassador Robert Pelletreau


Enlarge Susan Walsh
Skyline of Annapolis, Md., on Friday. Annapolis will host the Middle East summit. AP, November 23, 2007 · The White House on Friday praised key Arab states for agreeing to attend next week’s Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, saying it was a signal that the talks would be productive.

The conference in the Maryland capital starts Tuesday and is expected to launch the first round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in seven years, which the United States hopes will result in the creation of a Palestinian state by the end of President Bush’s second term in January 2009.

“The Annapolis conference will show broad international support for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders’ efforts and will be a launching point for negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace,” said Karl Duckworth, a State Department spokesman.

The comments followed an announcement in Cairo by the Arab League that members of a committee tasked with exploring a Saudi proposal for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement would participate in the conference to be held in Annapolis, Md., on Nov. 27, with separate meetings before and after in Washington.

Earlier in Cairo, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations decided to attend, but the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, insisted he would not allow “theatrics” like handshakes with Israeli officials, saying the gathering must make serious progress.

Participation by the Saudi foreign minister was a key goal of the United States to show Arab support for the conference, but until Friday, the kingdom had balked at saying whether it would attend and at what level.

It appeared that Syria – the other major holdout – would also attend, since the Arab decision was a collective one. But, when asked about Syria’s attendance, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said “final arrangements” had to be made. Syria has insisted Annapolis address its demands for the return of the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

U.S. officials have said that Syria is free to bring up any issue it wishes at the conference, which will include discussions on a “comprehensive” Arab-Israel peace deal.

The Arab League decision, made after intense discussions late Thursday and Friday, meant that the members of a league committee tasked earlier this year with dealing with the peace process will attend Annapolis. Those countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

Of those, only Egypt and Jordan recognize Israel.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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November 24th, 2007, 1:10 am


abraham said:

I agree with Observer: this conference is a complete farce. It was conceived by the Bush administration plain and simply and quite obviously for propaganda and nothing more whatsoever. It’s a publicity stunt for the consumption of an American audience in a vain and hardly serious attempt to build on the “progress” being made in Iraq. The Israelis and the Palestinians long ago pooh-poohed the conference, with the idiot Olmert already having dismissed the conference by saying he had no confidence that anything useful will come out of it, and with the idiot Abbas already saing much the same thing. If the two main parties that this conference is supposed to benefit have already waved it off then it’s pretty obvious the only party that is trying to benefit from it is Bush. With just a little over a year left in his disaster of a presidency it’s now time to try to build that legacy, as the idiot Clinton did at the end of his term.

All the various parties are simply going to show up and say a few words just so they can claim at the end that they aren’t the obstacle to peace and that they showed up and did their part. Ultimately it’s a waste of time, energy, money, resources, and in the end it will have only contributed to global warming with all the air travel required to get the respective parties to Annapolis. They may as well all stay where they are and just fart. That will accomplish as much as this conference and will but much less noxious gases into the atmosphere.

November 24th, 2007, 2:29 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

Syria’s presence is important because it gives legitimacy to the presence of Saudi Arabia who wouldn’t attend if the only countries present are ones that have peace treaties with israel. But now they can declare that their presence is part of a unified arabic stand. which was nicely spun yesterday by their foreign minister in stating that saudi never stood against a unified arab voice.

Putting the Golan issue on the agenda was Syria’s way of letting everyone know that it remains a key regional power and its voice must be heard. Realistically speaking though, there is no way syria is seriously considering resuming peace talks with Israel in the near future. Not that it wouldn’t mind it if it happened, but because it knows that Israel and the US are not serious. That hasn’t stop it from using its attendance card as way to purchase solutions to more immediate issues, such as the lebanese presidency, hariri investigation, etc. Next few weeks will reveal if this strategy will work.

November 24th, 2007, 9:09 am


Youssef Hanna said:


By asserting that “an assassination in Lebanon after Annapolis may flip that again [i.e, as can be seen in your sentence immediately preceding, Annapolis impacting “Lebanon’s balance of power in favor of Syria’s allies”] and i guess this is highly possible”, do you imply that the A. Shawkat regime’s assassination policy is foolish and suicidal, or do you insinuate that America and Israel are assassinating their allies in order to help them?

If i may help, i suggest you avoid answering.

November 24th, 2007, 9:58 am


IsraeliGuy said:

Hamas “shocked” at Arab endorsement of Annapolis

November 24th, 2007, 2:30 pm


abraham said:

IG: Thanks for posting that link. It only reinforces my belief that the conference is a farce. You can’t have a “peace” conference for the Palestinians but exclude their elected representatives.

America and Israel colluded with the traitorous Fatah leadership to wrest control of government from Hamas. If it wasn’t for the collective stupidity of Fatah’s leadership, let alone their corruption and behind-the-scenes collusion with Israel to thwart the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, this conference might’ve actually meant something.

Instead it’s a joke, and every Arab government that participates is the punchline.

November 24th, 2007, 6:58 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The punchline is the Arabs that let dictators rule them.
Each Arab is happy with his dictator but doesn’t like those in the other countires. I find that hilarious.

November 24th, 2007, 7:22 pm


why-discuss said:

Youssef Hanna

I am insinuating nothing, I am just saying that Lebanon is now a field for a game of power of different forces, the CIA, the Mossad, Al Quaeda, Mokhabarat etc.. Who killed who, I leave that to the International tribunal, but the reshuffling of alliances in this area have always been triggered by violent acts especially when the country is in a deadlock. As I doubt a civil war would erupt spontaneously, I guess that who ever wants Lebanon-Syria relationship to become tense again for one reason or another has no other resort than murder.

November 25th, 2007, 3:18 am