The Syrian president says Hamas and Hizbullah will never threaten Israel with his country's help. "They both will never attack Israel through Syria under any circumstances," Bashar Assad said in an interview published Tuesday by the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat.
He added that the peace talks between Syria and Israel were restricted to Damascus, and that Iran, Hizbullah or Hamas had nothing to do with them. "When we talk about 56 or 69 square meters which are the Syrian border, we cannot talk about Hamas or Hizbullah," he said.
He also defended the Shiite Lebanese group on the backdrop of its crisis with Egypt, as part of which Damascus has been defined by Cairo as a member of the "Arab axis of evil", saying that "they had no intention of harming Egypt."
The Syrian president was also asked to respond to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's recent statement that the formula for negotiations is now "peace in exchange for peace", and conveyed the message that there is no chance for peace without an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
"Peace is not just an agreement, it's something which happens between the two people," he said. "We could sign a peace deal without returning the land, but in such a situation there will be no peace, and we won't be able to normalize the relations. Naturally, we won't accept this under any circumstances. There is no such thing as peace for peace."
Addressing his Turkish-mediated talks with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Assad once again said that the two countries had reached "the closest point ever to a peace agreement", even closer than the point reached by his father, Hafez Assad, in his talks with then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the year 2000.
"As we've heard from Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, Olmert was willing to give back all of the Golan Heights. In other words, he had no problem with the demands we made in regards of the 1967 borders," said Assad.
At this point, he said, "they always used vague words like 'we'll see' or 'this is something we can discuss.' We said no, because this land is non-negotiable. They used avoidance tricks, and then they attacked Gaza and thwarted everything," the Syrian president accused.