Saturday, June 14, 2008

Syria: Only water issue had not been resolved with Israel

DAMASCUS, June 14 (KUNA) -- Israel has not asked Syria to break off its close ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas as a term to establish peace, the Syrian President said.

The Israelis have been speaking about negotiations without advance conditions and "they have not set terms to us during the talks," said Bashar Al-Assad, in remarks broadcast on Saturday on the electronic site, "Al-Sham Press," on Saturday.
Al-Assad said status of Hamas "concerned the Palestinian track (of negotiations) and Hezbollah is related to the Lebanese track and today we are talking solely about the Syrian track." Asked on what has been achieved in the behind-the-curtain talks with the Israelis, reportedly held in Turkey with Turkish mediation, Al-Assad indicated that up to 80 issues of dissension between the two sides had been resolved in the previous rounds of talks, held in the 90s.
A lot had been achieved during era of the late Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, but unfortunately he was assassinated and "this stopped every thing, thus we called for resuming the negotiations from the point where they had stopped particularly with regard of security issues that were some of the hardest topics," the president said. Al-Assad indicated at Rabin's pledge to withdraw from the Golan Heights.
"The process had reached the phase of establishing normal ties with ambassadorial representation in addition to other issues but the question of the water sharing had not been discussed. I am saying the truth, only the issue of the water has not been thrashed out."
Al-Assad's remarks coincided with fresh talks between the two sides at a junior level in Turkey. The Israelis reportedly want the talks to begin from square one but the Syrians favor the negotiations to be resumed from the latest phase of the 90s' negotiations.
Elaborating further, Al-Assad expressed his belief that the Israelis "know that they can live in peace only by reaching an accord in this regard," adding that they have become convined of this fact as a result of the 2006 war with Lebanon "and the repercussions of this war on the Israeli society and this is the major stimulant for the Israelis toward peace, on the basis of our analyses."
Asked whether Syria raised the issue of the Israeli air strikes on military sites in northern Syria -- said to be nuclear --, Al-Assad replied that this topic was not discussed, but he added, "this strike proves that Israel is not serious regarding the establishment of peace, and that's why we have opted to refrain from holding direct negotiations with them." According to media and press reports, junior-level Syrian officials and Israeli counterparts have not held face-to-face talks in Istanbul, and that Turkish diplomats have been shuttling between the two sides who have remained separate. The talks held with the Israelis with Turkish mediation are intended to test intention of the Israelis with regard of withdrawing from the Golan, Al-Assad pointed out, "to determine whether they are serious in this regard or whether they want to maneuver for local considerations." Al-Assad denied Israeli and Western reports that the sites that were hit with Israeli warplanes were nuclear, and reiterated that "they were of military nature." He added, "if they were nuclear, there should have been aftermath radiation ..." The president re-affirmed that construction of a nuclear facility cannot be constructed under the watchful eyes of satellites.
Israeli warplanes bombed the Syrian sites near Der Al-Zor in September 2007. The Israelis said the sites were built with aid from North Korean experts.Commenting further on the issue, Al-Assad touched on prospects of inspection of the bombed locations by teams from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), saying that the IAEA teams "could not come to Syria on basis of intelligence reports, for the bombed place is suspicious and the Americans have not presented any convincing evidence .. they just want to send in the experts thus we should be accurate for this issue is technical rather than political." On Lebanon, Al-Assad described the Doha conciliation for Lebanon accord as a "victory," affirming that Syria was against chias in the neighboring country for troubles there could spill over to the local Syrian arena. Al-Assad said the ties with Lebanon should be based on joint interests, and indicated that he would consider visiting this country in case the Lebanese succeeded in forming a national coalition government. He also added that opening a Syrian embassy in Beirut could be possible with the formaton of the aspired cabinet.On prospects of handing over Syrian nationals to a planned international tribunal to cross examine the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese premier, Rafic Al-Hariri, on suspicion on involvement in the assassination, the president indicated that there should be an accord in this regard. He also re-affirmed necessity of revealing those behind the killing of Al-Hariri.

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