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Assad: Israel may not be able to commit

Syrian president says that despite desire for peace from both sides, Israeli gov't must be stronger.

assad 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
assad 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Whilst Syria is interested in a peace agreement with Israel, and Israel is clearly pursuing the matter more seriously now than in recent years, doubt remains about the possibility of success given the instability of Prime Minster Ehud Olmert's government, Syrian President Bashar Assad told the Lebanese newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour on Thursday. "I think that Israel is, in a certain way, more serious now regarding the desire for a peace agreement," he said. "I say this with a lot of reservation, because past experience is not encouraging. One must wonder if Israel is capable of committing, especially [the Israeli] prime minister. "The agreement demands a strong leadership," Assad continued. "Is this leadership which exists today in Israel? I don't know. The process towards peace is even harder than the process towards war. We will try and we will see." Speaking on the pace of negotiations and the prospect of direct talks, the Syrian president emphasized that "conducting indirect talks does not say that we don't want to sit with the Israelis at the negotiating table - the opposite is true." However, after an eight-year negotiation freeze, and after Israeli attacks in Lebanon and Syria, trust between the sides is at a low point, Assad said. "We are now working on two fronts," he explained. "An attempt to build trust, with the intention of examining to what extent Israel really wants peace, and trying to arrive at a basic agreement on issues so that we can move to direct talks." "In the end, we are speaking about an all-inclusive peace," the Syrian president said. "The intent is peace which includes the Syrians, the Palestinians, and the Lebanese." "Israel is not serious enough, and therefore we must discern between the signing of an agreement with Israel and coming to a peace agreement."