LEADING NEWS SOURCE FOR TURKEY AND THE REGION

WORLD

Assad says Barak strong, honest and can deliver

HDN | 6/24/1999 12:00:00 AM |

Israeli PM-elect says he sees Syria as 'cornerstone' of peace in the Middle East Cairo, Egypt- The AP In his first reaction to the election of a new Israeli leader, Syrian President Hafez Assad has described Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak as "strong and honest," a leading Arabic newspaper reported on Wednesday. Barak himself said in a companion interview published in Al-Hayat of London that he saw Syria as the "cornerstone" of peace in the Middle East. Barak himself said in a

  • Israeli PM-elect says he sees Syria as 'cornerstone' of peace in the Middle East
  • Cairo, Egypt- The AP

    In his first reaction to the election of a new Israeli leader, Syrian President Hafez Assad has described Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak as "strong and honest," a leading Arabic newspaper reported on Wednesday.

    Barak himself said in a companion interview published in Al-Hayat of London that he saw Syria as the "cornerstone" of peace in the Middle East.

    Barak himself said in a companion interview published in Al Hayat of London that he saw Syria as the "cornerstone" of peace in the Middle East.

    The two statesmen used the interviews with veteran British journalist and Middle East expert Patrick Seale to exchange courtesies and send positive signals about their desire to restart Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

    Talks between Israeli and Syrian delegations have not taken place since February 1996. The election of the hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in May that year effectively froze the process as Syria accused him of trying to ignore what had been agreed with the previous Israeli government.

    Assad indicated he was glad that Netanyahu had lost the Israeli elections last month, saying, "Working with that man was useless."

    When Seale asked the Syrian president what he thought of the prospects for negotiations with a Barak-led government of Israel, Assad replied, "I feel confident now that there is a leader who can deliver if he chooses."

    "I was following what he [Barak] has achieved, whether through his deeds or words. He seems to me a strong and honest man," Assad said.

    "Clearly, he wants to achieve peace with Syria. He is moving ahead at a careful, studied pace."

    For his part, Barak told Seale, in an interview conducted before that with Assad, that he intended to make the "peace of the brave with Syria."

    "The only way for a lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is through an agreement with Syria," Barak said. "It is the cornerstone for peace."

    In an exceptional move for an Israeli leader, Barak paid Assad a compliment. Referring to the instability in Syria before Assad seized power in 1970, the prime minister-elect said: "Undoubtedly, President Assad has given the Syrian nation its new formula. He was capable of building a strong, independent and self confident Syria,"

    Barak reiterated his pledge to withdraw Israel's troops from Lebanon, where they have occupied a strip of territory along the Israeli border since 1985, within a year. He said he would carry out the withdrawal while negotiating with Syria, which has some 35,000 troops in Lebanon and is the country's main power-broker.

    "I believe Syria is of great importance for stability in the Middle East," Barak said.

    Israeli-Syrian peace talks have long focused on the Golan Heights, a Syrian plateau that Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Syria seeks a complete Israeli withdrawal from the heights. Israel wants Syria to make moves compatible with full peace such as open borders and trade.

    Seale, the author of a respected biography of Assad, was recently consulted by Barak and Israeli President Ezer Weizman on Syria, but he has dismissed the notion that he was acting as an envoy between the two sides.

    MOST POPULAR

    MOST COMMENTED

    AcerPro S.I.P.A HTML & CSS Agency