Bashar Assad Speaks Out on Peace: Is This an Opening or Part of his Waiting Game?

Despite seeing no movement on the Israeli-Syrian peace track since the Sheperdstown, West Virginia peace talks collapsed in 2000, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly told the BBC that Israel and Syria could one day forge a peace.  When asked whether Israel and Syria would one day be able to live side-by-side in peace, each accepting the other’s existence, he answered, “Yes, the answer is yes.”  At the same time, though, he said, “It’s not only the problem between the two parties.  You need arbiter, you need impartial arbiter [and the United States could not fulfill that role].”  He said, “So far the United States doesn’t have the will to play this role, and it doesn’t have the vision towards peace.”

This interview came a few days after reports surfaced in the Israeli press that the United States was urging Israel not to respond to Syria’s call for discussions.  According to the Jerusalem Post, “While Assad was calling for talks with Israel, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was busy appealing to world leaders to impose new sanctions against Syria because of its support for terrorist groups.”  Secretary Rice said directly to the press, “We’re going to have to look at tougher measures if Syria continues to be on the path that it’s on.” 

Some question whether pressure to isolate Syria with no offers of engagement is the best path to pursue, however.  In an International Herald Tribune op-ed last month on the correct path to pursue in Iraq, CALME luminary, former Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, said Syria should at least be invited to talks on the future of the region.  In that context he said, “Iran and Syria have to be part of that discussion, however distasteful that is to America…While it is doubtful Iran and Syria would accept such an invitation, there is little diplomatic downside in extending it to them.” 

According to the Jerusalem Post article, sources say that as long as the U.S. isn’t engaging Syria, it does not want Israel to do so.  The article concludes, “As long as the administration remains steadfast in its views regarding Syria, a renewal of negotiations with Israel is not seen as a preferable course of action.”

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Explore posts in the same categories: CALME Luminaries, Middle East, Middle East Peace, Syria, U.S. Role

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