Washington – Martin Indyk, the former US Ambassador to Israel tells Ynet in exclusive interview that "The Syrians have to understand that they are in a dangerous situation. When you inflame fire, you don't know where it will spread."
Indyk, the head of the Saban Center For Middle East Policy, piled hours of conversations with senior Syrian officials when he served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs under President Bill Clinton. He served twice as US Ambassador to Israel and is a leading expert on Middle East Affairs.
"I am a diplomat and a man who believes in dialogue, but at this stage I believe it is forbidden for the United States to hold direct talks with the Syrians," Indyk said.
He said that the Bush administration is facing a tough situation. In light of the complex situation in the Middle East, and especially after the latest crisis, officials of former administrations are pressing the current administration to speak with Syria to solve the current crisis.
The officials who back this view include Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State in the first Bush administration, and Warren Christopher, Secretary of State under the Clinton administration.
Washington withdrew its Ambassador to Damascus after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and US officials are forbidden from meeting Syria's Ambassador to Washington.
"As someone who believes in dialogue and worked to advance Israeli-Syrian peace, I believe that the situation is different now. The United States was behind the Security Council resolution to withdraw the Syrians from Lebanon. A million Lebanese went to the streets demanding the Syrians leave," Indyk said, adding that speaking with the Syrians would amount to betraying the Lebanese people.
He added that Syrians would interpret negotiations with Washington as an invitation to reenter Lebanon.
So what's the solution?
Indyk says contacts with Syria can be made through the French and the United Nations and Washington should made it clear that if Damascus doesn't stop its support for Hizullah it will find itself entangled in the conflict it created.
He added that the Syrians need to understand the current crisis between Israel and the Hizbullah is very dangerous and therefore they should work on calming the situation instead of worsening it.