Syria sees no chance for peace this year

Syria sees no chance for peace this year

Syria's ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha visits ...By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI, Associated Press Writer
Mon Feb 25, 4:33 PM ET

PITTSBURGH – Israel and Palestinians will not reach a peace deal this year, and a recent Mideast peace conference in Annapolis was only "an exercise in public relations," Syria's ambassador to the United States said Monday. 
Imad Moustapha said President Bush has no real desire to broker a peace deal and that there are powerful forces within his administration who believe "chaos is constructive" in the Middle East.

"I don't know who he is referring to," responded Tom Casey, a U.S. State Department spokesman. "I certainly know that we have serious and ongoing concerns about Syria's unconstructive role in the region."

The White House accuses Syria of harboring terrorists, supporting Hezbollah — a Lebanese group classified by the United States as a terrorist organization — and of allowing insurgents to freely cross its border into Iraq. Moustapha said Hezbollah leaders will remain active in Syria despite the mysterious killing earlier this month of one of the group's top commanders, Imad Mughniyeh.

Moustapha represented Syria at the Annapolis, Md., conference in November, and later expressed optimism that the talks could ease tensions between Washington and Damascus.

But in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, hours before he was scheduled to speak at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Moustapha said the United States only makes positive statements about Syria when it serves a political purpose.

"We believe that the whole Annapolis thing was an exercise in public relations," Moustapha said. The only thing that happened there was "people were smiling and saying 'cheese.'"

Moustapha added, "I don't think there is a unanimous belief among the administration, across the departments of this administration, that peace should be the path forward in the Middle East."

Palestinian officials are also pessimistic, he said, adding that they have told him no progress has been made in one-on-one negotiations with Israel.

Bush announced in Annapolis that Israel and the Palestinians would relaunch long-stalled peace talks with the goal of reaching a deal by the end of this year. Since then, high-level talks have been held, including several meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

No breakthroughs have been reported, and the talks have been overshadowed by increasing violence along the Israel-Gaza border and Israeli construction in areas the Palestinians want for a future state.

Bush is happy with Annapolis' outcome and has no "real enthusiasm" to pursue matters further, Moustapha said.

"They have now their photographs for their memoirs," he said. "The Syrian leadership does not believe that this year will witness any major movement."

He said Syria's investigation into Mughniyeh's killing in a Damascus car bombing is progressing. He said Damascus will allow Hezbollah to remain active because it is popular throughout the Muslim world, viewed by many as successfully resisting Israel.

Many Muslims and Arabs believe Hezbollah's resistance led Israel to end its 18-year occupation of south Lebanon in 2000. Many also believe Hezbollah was victorious in a 2006 war with Israel.

Hezbollah leaders have accused Israel of killing Mughniyeh and have vowed to retaliate. Israel has denied involvement in the Feb. 12 car bombing. Mughniyeh, who helped set up the Shiite guerrilla group, was one of the world's most wanted terror masterminds, accused by the West of killing hundreds in suicide bombings and hijackings in Lebanon and around the world.

Syria demands Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as part of a peace deal.

Moustapha has been Syria's ambassador to the United States since 2004. At times, he has said he is the loneliest ambassador in Washington, because no one in the Bush administration will talk to him.

Comments (6)

Naji said:

I got the first word in…!

It seems that Syrian diplomacy has started to loudly annunciate a very clear, and much softened (i.e without Palestinians), position on peace with Israel, …and loudly announcing that this is a prize that awaits the next administration that understands Syria’s position and interests…!!

Is Obama listening…?! (Yes, at least his people are…)

February 26th, 2008, 2:50 pm


wizart said:

Perhaps a brief summary of the previous comment section is warranted since peace will only materialize when differing people like QN & AIG are able to find common values as a basis for a peaceful resolution. As long as when the two sides who don’t see eye to eye keep trying to isolate each other and argue how one is wrong or “misguided”, etc. then there will be lots of photo opportunities and/or hundreds more write-ups about why the other side is wrong and people go home again starving for real solutions.

I’m always happy to see someone objecting to something because that’s the way democracies work although clearly some people can’t agree to disagree politely. Therefore democracy is delayed here.
QN, Alex and others are not comfortable with AIG because his world view is different despite endless arguments. This might be in fact an opportunity to see first hand why peace efforts keep failing.
“Banning” people like him who don’t “get in the fold” as suggested is counter productive and would just give this blog anfair names.

If both sides agreed there wouldn’t be any need to negotiate.
There’s always team A and team B who argue, disagree and negotiate.

Not every country/individual/negotiator is exposed to democratic thinking although they are often parties to peace negotiations or in the case of this blog they feel surprised someone is objecting to their view and more surprised that their views are not changing!

February 26th, 2008, 4:37 pm


ghat Albird said:

Have always wondered why no one from the non-Israeli side has come out bluntly and simply stated that israel must first abide by the original UN Resolution that created it and the Palestinian State and that the Arab States will contribute to a UN military force to guarantee the absence of any military or other attacks on Israel.

If Israel rejects such demands in any shape or form then Israel has no rights in attacking or defending itself. It is in violation of the articles that created it and is a pariah nation with all that that entails.

Socalled negotiations are relevant to the act of buying and/or selling. In the case of Israel and Palestine such actions are a waste of time and tend to postpone the inevitable. And give the lie to the original actions of the UN in 1948.

From an international legal bases Israel is in violation of occupying territories that were specifically designated to be separate and equal in status to its own existance.

Talk is cheap. Unless an ethical, moral as well as judicial endeavour pursuant to the intent of the creation of both Israel and the Palestinian State by the UN is demanded and forthcoming the measure of determining the good guys from the bad guys is similar to the game of musical chairs at best and at worst will continue to smolder until a tsunami occurs where everyone loses.

Chitchating about who is democratic and who is not plays well for postponing what really needs to be done. Men, women and children are being denied life and have endured enough suffering.

If Israeli actions and or no actions mean its continued rejection of the legal basis of its creation then it cannot be accepted as the victim and in this content all those who are under its control have all the rights in the world to do those things they believe will end their subservience to an occupying foreign power.

February 26th, 2008, 10:16 pm


Friend in America said:

I join with Wizard in his comments. The time has come for genuine diplomacy. No one will get everything but each party can have a good piece of the apple.
Ambassador Moustapha’s statement is a positive step in moving diplomacy forward. A number of ME watchers in America have doubted Syria’s intentions toward peace were sincere. But, the Ambassador’s statement coupled with Damascus’s more tentative offers to negotiate in the past 12 months is a clear signal. The doubters need to change.
In the past Washington has been too rigid and maybe has been too rigid since Annapolis. Some in influential circles will not respond positively, but there is a growing number persons of influence in Washington that will respond positively. Ambassador Moustapha knows that and knows who they are.
Washington needs to respond in the spirit of Annapolis. Expect the response to be diplomatic with only bland public statements because the peace process has much to loose if it becomes a target of controversy in the Presidential election.

February 26th, 2008, 11:49 pm


wizart said:

Negotiators Need Social Skills

Sociologists have studied the ways primates learn. One of the studies included very young chimpanzees and children. The combined group was given a basic demonstration on how to open a device. Afterwards the chimps and children were given their own devices.

The chimps diligently tried to open the devices. They applied their proven skill of random experimentation. The children, on the other hand, applied what they had been shown and tried to open the device with that technique. The children were far more successful.

We, humans, learn through socializing. We observe others, collect those observations and store them away to use in the future. Chimps, on the other hand, attack each new task with vigor but with little application of what they have just observed in fellow chimps.

Negotiators need social skills to capitalize on the preliminary social interaction. Insights potentially useful in the actual negotiation are gathered and stored for future reference.

In today’s fast paced environment building a relationship is often neglected in the interest of saving time and getting to the point. This can be a costly mistake. Negotiators are humans and humans respond to the personalization of any situation. It is our nature as social beings.

Negotiation is the settlement of conflicting interests w/out resorting to force. Everything in life is negotiable. Negotiation doesn’t only refer to buying/selling at bazars. Peace is the #1 most valuable product in the world today. We need to learn how to make it and it’s everybody’s responsibility to follow up on this.

February 28th, 2008, 12:02 pm


wizart said:

What’s a Negotiation?

Is it about sticking to stiff positions?
Is it about giving away the store?

The answer to both questions is no despite popular misunderstanding.

Who’s teaching our negotiators how to negotiate a peaceful resolution?

March 2nd, 2008, 7:05 pm


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