Europe: Racing to Damascus
After long period of isolation from West, in last week alone Germany, Great Britain, France and Spain all send envoys to Damascus. Syrian officials: Meetings are expression of European position, which is in opposition to the will of the American Administration that wants to isolate Syria
A series of parleys (between the envoys and Syrian officials) were held this week, after a long period of Syrian isolation from the West, since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (in a car bombing in February).
The meetings began with the arrival of German Foreign Ministry director-general, who met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem, on Sunday evening, followed by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos.
London sent British Prime Minister Tony Blair's top Foreign Office aide, Nigel Sheinwald, who said that a French security official secretly visited Damascus this week. It's worth pointing out that France, headed by President Jacques Chirac is particularly hostile towards Syrian leader, President Bashar Assad, since the Hariri hit.
It was also reported this week that the Polish foreign minister also paid a call in Damascus.
Diplomatic sources told the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat that, "Feelers being sent out by Western states towards Syria are in their infancy, and are meant to get a sense of how Syria plans deals with a range of issues, notably, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian issue, as well as the willingness of Syria to play a constructive role in these matters."
One example would be the issue of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, or the degree of support for the Lebanese government, headed by Fouad Siniora.
"We have made it clear to the Syrians that they can choose between playing a more constructive role, regionally, or continuing to support terrorism in the face of opposition by the International community," in the words of one Downing Street official, who denied that the visit was a sea change in attitudes towards Damascus.