Syrian President Bashar Assad continued to alternate between peace overtures and threats of war on Monday, stressing that resistance might be used to "return" the Golan Heights.
"Resisting occupation is a patriotic duty and to support it is a moral and legal imperative ... and an honor of which we are proud," said Assad in a speech to the 25th Economic Summit of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (COMCEC) in Istanbul.
"This does not contradict our unceasing desire to achieve a just and comprehensive peace on the basis of the return of the occupied territories, especially the occupied Syrian Golan, but the failure of negotiations to restore all our rights would make resistance an alternative solution," he said, in an apparent allusion to acts of violence and terror against Israel committed by "resistance" movements such as Hizbullah.
Concerning the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Assad said that stopping settlement construction was not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
"What about dismantling settlements instead of stopping construction, and most importantly, what about ending the occupation?" he said.
The Syrian president went on to say that the real cause of the problem in the region was "the Zionist occupation" which "we must begin to work to eliminate."
Assad cited the world's "negative" response to the Goldstone Commission's report, as well as its "indifferent reaction" to what he termed "one of the worst war crimes ever known in modern times" - an apparent reference to Israel's three-week offensive in Gaza - as reasons for the Arab and Islamic world to be more self-sufficient.
"Internationally banned weapons are being used against [Gazan] civilians, showing Israel's barbarianism," said the Syrian president. "[The world's reaction] proves that none of our goals will be achieved by relying on others."
At the end of October, Assad said that Damascus was ready to resume peace talks with Jerusalem, stressing that the people of his country would support negotiations. But, he added, "there is a condition that on the Israeli side we also have those who want to continue the negotiations."
Meanwhile, King Abdullah II has called on Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from any action which undermines the chances for Middle East peace, and said Israel must treat the Jerusalem issue with sensitivity.
"Jerusalem is considered a red line and Israel needs to understand this and not play with fire," Abdullah told Al-Hayat on Monday.
Jordan's king gave his backing to beleaguered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, describing him as a full partner in the peace process who represented the interests of his people.
Abdullah told the London-based paper that a continuation of the status quo
in the region would constitute sliding off into the abyss, and said he feared for the state of the Palestinians and the entire region if there was no progress soon.
He also warned against an Israeli attack on Iran, saying the repercussions for such action would likely be catastrophic.