Syria's president is lauding European Union member Cyprus for supporting the return of the Golan Heights back to Syria, a position he says the EU doesn't share.
Bashar Assad said that the EU "doesn't vote in favor of" returning the Golan Heights and hailed Cyprus for "its independent stance."
Israel captured the strategic plateau during the 1967 Mideast war and Damascus has said it will not make peace with Israel until the land is returned.
EU officials say the issue must be seen as part of an overall peace deal between Israel and its neighbors.
Assad said during an official visit to Nicosia on Thursday that Cyprus could help other EU countries "more deeply understand" regional issues, enabling the bloc to play a more effective role in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Syria rejected on Thursday US accusations that it was destabilizing Lebanon and said it did not need US advice on how to deal with its smaller neighbor.
The United States has sought better ties with Syria since President Barack Obama took office in January last year, but the two sides have exchanged tough words in recent days.
President Assad told al-Hayat newspaper in an interview published last week that the US "created chaos in every place it entered."
'We do not need Feltman's advice'
Two days later the US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice accused Damascus of joining forces with Iran and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah to undermine Lebanon.
US Undersecretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman also told the Washington Post there would not be significant improvement in ties with Syria "as long as Syria's friends are undermining stability in Lebanon", a reference to Hezbollah.
An official Syrian statement published on Thursday said:
"We do not need Feltman's advice because Syria is exercising its role through an independent decision to serve the interests of its people and the stability and security of the region."
Syria ended its nearly three decades of military presence in Lebanon after the international outcry over the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
A UN-backed tribunal is expected to indict Hezbollah members over the killing. Hezbollah has denied any role in the assassination and has stepped up pressure on US-backed Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, son of the slain statesman, to repudiate the investigation.
Syria has also hinted that the tribunal should be disbanded, but the United States said on Wednesday it was giving $10 million to help finance the tribunal's work.
The harsh comments last week from Rice, who accused Syria of arming Hezbollah and flouting Lebanese sovereignty were immediately dismissed by her Syrian counterpart.
Reuters and AP contributed to the report
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