Photo: AFP
Assad. 'Serious in his intentions'
Photo: AFP
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Olmert. 'Must not miss opportunity'
Photo: Gil Yohanan

EU Parliament member: Syria's peace intentions genuine

David Hammerstein, who met senior officials in Damascus at beginning of week, tells Ynet Syria is serious in its peace intentions, but it all depends on Israel's willingness to discuss Golan Heights; adds Olmert would be making big mistake by missing opportunity

Genuine intentions. Following the report in the al-Aarabiya network that Syrian President Bashar Assad recently sent a personal letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pleading with him to resume the peace process, European Parliament member David Hammerstein told Ynet on Tuesday that Syria was serious in its intentions for peace with Israel, but that it all depends on Israel's willingness to discuss the Golan Heights.


Both the Prime Minister's Office and the Syrian president denied the fact that such a letter was sent or received.


Hammerstein, who met at the beginning of the week with Syrian officials, claimed that the peace signals recently received from Damascus were not a Syrian manipulation.


The Syrian moves opposite Iraq, including in the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two states, the improvement of the relations with Turkey and in the fact that the Syrians did not thwart the deployment of the international force in Lebanon testify to the fact that this is not a Syrian manipulation, Hammerstain explained.


According to him, Syria fears international isolation.


Regarding Syria the concerns are clear – in order to avoid isolation they are trying to convey messages to Israel and the West that they want to end the international isolation imposed on them and fulfill a constructive role in Lebanon, he said.


Hammerstein said he believed Israel and the West must listen to Syria, as they will eventually be able to bring about a change in its support – from Iran and Hizbullah to the West.


Hammerstein arrived in Damascus at the beginning of the week as part of a delegation which also included four of his colleagues. There they met with Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah al-Dardari and Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Arnous. Following the meetings, Hammerstein had no doubts that the opportunity must not be missed.


'Syrians must be given a chance'

The Syrians are going out of their way to please the West, he said, adding that they established relations with Iraq and want to resume talks with Israel from the point where they stopped.


They don’t even have a problem with the United Nations' initiative to move the Shabaa Farms to the United Nations' custody, he said.


Syria is also interested in signing the neighboring agreement with the EU, but has expressed its discomfort over the demands for democratic and human rights reforms, he added.


Damascus wants a change of direction opposite Israel, Hammerstein said, but this depends on the Israeli intent. In his opinion, Syria it will eventually be possible to move Syria from Iran and Hizbullah's side to the West's side, but this will not happen overnight and without an agreement.


According to Hammerstein, the voices of war heard in Damascus occasionally are not serious and are nothing more than flase threats or "barks."


In light of all this, Hammerstein has clear advice to Israel: There is now an opportunity and Israel must take advantage of it as soon as possible.


I fear the ramifications of rejecting this initiative and the escalation which may follow, he said, adding that Israel should know how to distinguish between its interest and US President George W. Bush's interest and be more loyal to its real interest than to Bush's war on terror.


This is the time to take advantage of the window of opportunity and the Syrians must be given a chance, he urged, concluding that Olmert would be making a big mistake by missing this opportunity.


פרסום ראשון: 12.19.06, 23:30
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