Photo: AFP
Assad - Genuine shift in policy?
Photo: AFP
Walid al-Mualem
Photo: AFP
Farouk al-Sharaa
Photo: AFP

Damascus divided over peace talks

Editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi says Syrian leadership deeply divided over return to negotiations with Israel, sees resumption of talks as clear victory for those advocating jumping ship on Tehran

The indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel have flamed existing tensions between the two camps dominating the regime in Damascus. At least according to the London-based 'al-Quds al-Arabi' newspaper on Saturday.


According to an editorial penned by the paper's editor-in-chief, Abdel Bari-Atwan, on the one side of the spectrum is President Bashar Assad's deputy, Farouk al-Sharaa and on the other – his foreign affairs minister, Walid al-Mualem, who supports dialogue with Israel and the United States.


Bari-Atwan asserts that the two have polar opposite views of what Damascus' next step should be.

Al-Mualem advocates negotiations that would lead to an agreement with Israel, a move which could extract Syria from its US-imposed isolation and, furthermore, possible prevent the establishment of an international criminal tribunal to deal with the assassination of Lebanon's Rafik al-Hariri.


Al-Sharaa, however, maintains a stringent belief that Syria must not compromise its principles and continue its policy of supporting 'resistance,' while preserving the current alliances with Russia, China and Iran. He also believes that Damascus should not abandon organizations under its patronage, namely Hizbullah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.


The first camp, writes Bari-Atwan, supports a moderate approach that would have Syria follow the 'Libyan model' – which saw Tripoli deserting its nuclear ambitions and opening itself to the West.


Al-Mualem believes Damascus fully cooperate with America, comply with demands to abandon its nuclear program and hand over information vital to the US-led war on terror.


Proponents of this approach say negotiations with Israel will lead to an eventual agreement with Washington, which would clear Syria of involvement in al-Hariri's murder save the regime.


The prominent editor-in-chief writes that in launching talks with Israel, even through Turkish mediation, show al-Mualem currently has the upper hand and that Syria is signaling Washington that it is ready to jump ship from the Iranian camp.


However, says Bari-Atwan, it is difficult to determine whether we are truly witnessing a strategic shift in Damascus or simply a tactical ploy intended to buy Syria more time.


פרסום ראשון: 05.24.08, 16:59
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