A new country has begun mediating between Jerusalem and Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad
"There were delegations here which brought messages from the Israeli prime minister, saying that he wants peace. One even came here during the war. We said that this is a positive thing, but our stance is that we do not support secret negotiations. What is required from the Israeli officials is an official statement that they want peace," he added.
In a speech which dealt with the possibilities for negotiations rather than with threats, Syrian president revealed that "there is one party, which we are proud of, which has begun mediating in the past few weeks and got into the thick of things. The Israeli prime minister said that he wants peace and this is a good thing, but it's not enough.
"We are waiting for the conditions to mature for a Syrian official to go to that country, not in order to meet with an Israeli official, but in order to talk to this country. If there is progress, I will stand up and say it. I will not hide."
According to one estimation, the country Assad was referring to was Turkey.
Assad made the remarks in a speech to the Syrian parliament after being sworn in for a second time for a seven-year term. The Syrian president was reelected in May by 97.62 percent of the votes in a referendum where he was the only candidate.
Addressing the situation with Israel,
the Syrian president clarified, "If they are only sending us messengers, this is not serious. They must provide us with guarantees that the entire Golan Heights will be returned. Our experience with them is not good in this sense…
"I demand, as a minimum demand from Israel, a deposit like the Rabin deposit. Apart from that, we are discussing other things in addition to the territory. This is what is required from the Israeli officials… I am telling you this so that you can understand what is behind the news and read between the lines. This is how the Syrian citizen can stand by his country."
He added, "We once again stress our desire to renew the negotiations based on the principle of land for peace, meaning a return of all of the Golan up to the June 4 1967 lines. Israelis must remember that the cost of peace is lower than all wars."
Assad made it clear, however, that his country continues to support Hizbullah
and similar groups.
"Recent events have emphasized our confidence in resistance. Holding on to resistance is the guarantee for our nation's future. What is happening in the Arab nation leads us to face unprecedented challenges…
"I see Syria
facing a new stage, strong and confident. The Golan will return to the homeland, and I promise you this. I support our prisoners and support our soldiers."
The Syrian president slammed the American efforts to isolate Damascus.
"On the one hand, for example, the superpowers pressure Syria, and on the other hand they accuse Syria of being a weak country. So what do you want? If it's weak, why are you pressuring it, and vice versa?"
"Occasionally you hear that Syria wants peace in order to relieve the pressure. We have a direct interest in the peace process," Assad concluded.