Syria nixes Assad visit to Jerusalem

Official reportedly rejects suggestion made earlier in the day by Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

October 11, 2006 23:50
1 minute read.
assad lookin good 298

assad spiffed up 298. (photo credit: AP [File])

If Israel was hoping Syrian President Bashar Assad would prove he's not all talk when it comes to peace negotiations by making an Anwar Sadat-like visit to Jerusalem, the country will have to wait a little longer. A Syrian official reportedly rejected the suggestion Wednesday, made earlier in the day by Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres. "If Assad said, 'I'm coming to the Knesset,' would he be stopped?" Peres asked rhetorically when interviewed on the subject. "He needs to say that he wants to speak to Israel about peace." The Prime Minister's Office distanced itself from the invitation, saying Peres's words were his own and didn't reflect government policy. But anyway, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Asi Shariv, Israel doesn't view Assad's talk of peace as genuine, since it hasn't been backed up by action. "If you want peace, you can show us that you really want peace," he said. Instead of proposing a visit, Shariv offered: "You can send [Hamas leader] Khaled Mashaal out of Damascas. You can stop [shipping] weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon." Assad has made several recent comments in the Western media alluding to the possibility of peace with Israel. He told the German magazine Der Spiegel that "we want to make peace - peace with Israel," and on Monday he told the BBC that it would be possible for the two countries to live side by side and accept each other's existence. At the same time, however,Assad has warned in interviews with Arab media about the country's preparations for an Israeli attack and indicated the Golan Heights could be retaken by force. Shariv suggested that Assad's more conciliatory comments were a bid at deflecting international criticism of his regime, long labelled by the US as a nation that abets terror. "It's coming in the weeks before the decision on [Rafik] Hariri," Shariv said, referring to the international inquiry on the murder of the former Lebanese prime minister, a harsh critic of the Syrian presence in Lebanon.

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