Israel is pushing the Middle East toward a new war, Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Wednesday.
“Israel is not serious about achieving peace since all facts point out that Israel is pushing the region towards war, not peace," the official Syrian news agency SANA quoted Assad as saying during a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
Earlier Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem warned Israel that if war were to break out between Syria and Israel, it would be fought “inside your cities.”
“Israel must stop being the neighborhood bully. Don’t test our determination,” Moallem said during a press conference in Damascus where Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos was also present. “One day you threaten Gaza, the next day you threaten Lebanon, then Iran and now Syria.”
Moallem warned that if a war between Syria and Israel breaks out, it would be “total and take place inside your cities.”
His words were a reaction to a statement by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who said at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday that if an agreement with Syria was not reached, the two countries might be dragged into a “forceful confrontation that may deteriorate into all-out war.”
“In the reality of the Middle East, we will conclude such a war and then sit and negotiate, talking about the exact issues we have been debating with the Syrians for the past 15 years,” said Barak.
Moallem said Syria “assesses that such a war will break out, we must not rule out such a possibility. I would say it would be a total and expansive war, whether it begins in South Lebanon or in Syria.”
Trying to calm the atmosphere, Moratinos said he had just returned from a visit to Israel and left with the feeling that Israelis had “a will for peace.” He said he did not hear “the drums of war” while he was here. Moratinos promised that Spain would “continue to do its utmost so that peace talks in the Middle East will be renewed as soon as possible.”
Moallem’s bellicose remarks followed quick on the heels of reports that the United States is returning its ambassador to Syria, after five years when the American representation in Syria was only by low-level diplomats.
Moallem confirmed that the US asked Syria to approve the nomination of Robert Ford as ambassador.
“The United States presented us with a nominee for ambassador,” he
said. “This is an issue of American sovereignty and it is Syria’s right
to examine the nomination.”
He did not say whether Syria approved or denied the nomination.