Photo: AFP
Syrian President Assad. Road to Middle East goes through Damascus
Photo: AFP

Syrian deputy PM: Our isolation over

Abdallah Dardari tells Financial Times Western powers have realized they need to work with Damascus. International community now recognizes it ought to talk to President Assad's regime if it wants to progress in Middle East, he says

The international isolation of Syria is over as Western powers have realized they need to work with Damascus, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Abdallah Dardari has told a British newspaper.


Dardari told the Financial Times business daily that the international community now recognized that it ought to talk to President Bashar Assad's regime if it wanted progress in the Middle East, particularly on Lebanon and Iraq.


"The former political isolation of Syria has ended. It is no longer there," he told the FT.


"I don't want to say there is a sense of 'I told you so' but there is a sense that people are realizing in Western capitals that if you want to be influential in the Middle East, you have to come through Damascus."


Relations between the United States and Syria are tense. But earlier this week, two US senators, including John Kerry, the former Democratic Party presidential candidate, were in Damascus for talks with Assad.


'Syria's priority is to secure return of Golan Heights'

Dardari said that previously, the United States had simply presented Syria with a list of demands to end various practices, instead of talking about mutual interests, and that this attitude proved ineffective.


"It didn't work in April 2003, just after (the) occupation of Baghdad. If it didn't work then, at the peak of US influence in the region, it will not work now with Syria," he said.


Dardari added that Syria's priority was to secure the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.


The United States said Wednesday it supported Syrian opposition groups rivaling Assad, but said such support was overt, and not a secret bid to undermine his government.


US President George W. Bush has dismissed calls for a direct US dialogue with Syria, which Washington accuses of letting extremists into Iraq and undermining Lebanon's fragile democracy by funding and training Hizbullah.


The Syrian government daily Ath-Thawra hit out Friday at terms set out by the US government for heeding a bi-partisan panel's recommendation to open a dialogue on calming neighboring Iraq.


The paper was following a line already set out by Assad.


"They (the Americans) have to differentiate between a dialogue and giving instructions. We are open to a dialogue, but we will not take instructions," Assad said earlier this month.


פרסום ראשון: 12.23.06, 09:04
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