Clinton. Unshakable commitment
Photo: AFP
Clinton and Barak in Washington this week
Photo: AFP

Clinton to warn Syria of US commitment to Israel

US secretary of state slated to stress Iranian, Syrian threats bear consequences during speech before American-Jewish Committee; encourage Middle Eastern nations to actively promote Arab peace initiative

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is slated to warn Tehran and Damascus Thursday that Washington's commitment to Israel's security is "unshakable" in a speech before the American-Jewish Committee.


Segments of Clinton's speech suggest that the secretary of state will stress that increasing the smuggling of advanced weapons to Hezbollah and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip could ignite a new conflict in the Middle East.


State Department Spokesman Phillip Crowley said that Clinton will address the "very real threats" affecting Israel and will voice US concerns over the Syrian government's conduct and supply of weapons in violation of UN resolution 1701.


"We are concerned about the broader issue of the nature of Syrian support to Hezbollah involving a range of missiles," Crowley said.


He added that US intelligence was looking at "multiple systems" from "multiple sources," including Syria, that Hezbollah may have.


US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Tuesday that Iran and Syria are arming Hezbollah with an arsenal of rockets and missiles the likes of which most countries do not have.


US state officials are greatly concerned with the transfer of rockets from Syria to Hezbollah. Following meetings between Defense Minister Ehud Barak with Clinton and Gates in Washington, Obama administration officials toughened their public stance concerning activities in south Lebanon.


It appears Barak presented the Americans with convincing proof causing the usually-cautious Gates to issue an uncharacteristic statement on the Shiite group's weapons arsenal.


Meanwhile, a debate is being held in Washington about the appointment of Robert Ford as US ambassador to Damascus. The Senate have yet to set a date for a vote on the appointment.


Republican senators such as John McCain warn that sending a US envoy to Damascus will be interpreted as a sign of weakness. The democratic administration claims that the appointment would serve as an effective high-ranking channel conveying messages between the governments.


According to Crowley, Clinton is expected to stress the considerations in appointing a Damascus envoy. She will argue that it would not be "a reward or concession," but rather "a tool that can give us added leverage and insight and greater ability to convey strong and clear messages aimed at changing Syria's behavior."


He added that Clinton will address Washington's promotion of sanctions against Iran in the Security Council.


Promoting Arab peace initiative

In her speech, Clinton will also say the US will continue to pursue an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and is hoping to restart indirect talks between the two sides in the near future, according to Crowley.


"We are working around the clock to move forward with proximity talks, which we hope will set the stage for a resumption of direct negotiations on all permanent status issues as soon as possible," he said.


Clinton is also slated to stress the importance of the Arab peace initiative and the need for countries in the region to support the parties in an effort to promote the proposal, by deeds as well as words.


Clinton herself commented on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's expected visit in New York for a nuclear conference and said any attempt by Ahmadinejad to undermine the purpose of the conference - to review, revise and improve the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - would fail.


"If he believes that by coming he can somehow divert attention from this very important global effort or cause confusion that might possibly throw into doubt what Iran has been up to,...then I don't believe he will have a particularly receptive audience," she told a news conference with visiting Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorsky.


Associated Press contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 04.30.10, 00:22
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