Photo: BBC
President Bashar Assad speaks to BBC
Photo: BBC

Assad on Israel: It takes two to tango

In BBC interview, Syrian president says he is willing to negotiate peace with Israel, but conditions for such talks may not exist at this point. Assad suggests Israel government not strong enough to promote peace, adds US key for progress

LONDON - Speaking with BBC's Newsnight on Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that he would, in principle, be willing to negotiate with Israel but that the conditions for such a situation did not exist yet.


In a special interview with BBC's John Simpson, Assad refuted claims that his country was sponsoring Hizbullah and allowing gunmen to infiltrate into Iraq. He also denied any Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.


When asked whether Syria transferred weapons to Hizbullah during the recent war with Israel, Assad did not respond directly, but said that any resistance movement that enjoys widespread popular support could easily obtain arms.


“Usually, from our experience in the region, whenever you have resistance, you have public support. Whenever you have public support they will be able to get any arms from anywhere,” he said.


Assad insisted that Damascus had only provided Hizbullah with political assistance, and stressed that his country intended to cooperate with the international community in the implementation of UN Resolution 1701, in order to prevent the Lebanese group from obtaining weapons.


Referring to Hamas and Hizbullah, the Syrian president said: “As long as they are effective on the ground, among the people - you have to deal with them. And when they have the support of the people, you cannot label them as terrorists, because this way you label the people as terrorists and you cannot say, this country is a terrorist country… these people are a terrorist people - this is not objective. And that's why most of the politics, most of the policies that have been done by the west for the last few years towards our region have failed.”


'Decision for peace in US' hands'

The president was asked whether he wanted to enter into peace negotiations with Israel and replied positively. However, he said: “You know there's a saying in English… they say it takes two to if one of the dancers is dancing tango and the other one is dancing waltz but he thinks that he's dancing tango then both of them will fall."


Assad reiterated his willingness to talk with Israel, but added: "…That doesn't mean you have the environment to achieve it or to move toward.”


The president explained that he doubts whether the current Israeli leadership was strong enough to promote peace with Syria.


“…we don't know if this government are strong enough to move towards peace. Like what happened during Barak's term in 2000 when we went to meet with the Israelis and it was proven in President Clinton's memoir that when he mentioned that the Syrians were ready to deliver while the Israelis weren't, because of internal issues. So the first question - can they and do they have the will? The other question is the decision for peace now is not in Israel - it's in Washington. And I didn't read it only in newspapers and magazines, actually many officials in Europe and in the Arab worlds heard that from the Americans,” Assad concluded.


פרסום ראשון: 10.09.06, 22:04
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