‘US is talking to Syria about renewed dialogue with Israel'

Kuwaiti paper 'Al-Rai' reports Syrian officials told Dennis Ross they are prepared to distance themselves from Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas.

By
January 1, 2011 11:23
2 minute read.
Syrian President Bashar Assad

bashar assad 311. (photo credit: AP)

The US has secretly communicated with Syrian officials in recent weeks in hopes of brokering a comprehensive peace agreement between Syria and Israel, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai reported on Saturday.

According to a report by the German news agency DPA, sources told Al-Rai that the US was contacted by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem with the message that Damascus was ready to renew dialogue with the Israelis and reach a peace deal.

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Stories such as these appear periodically in the Arab press.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to the report.

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, when asked about the possibility of negotiations with Syria at a cultural event in Mevaseret Zion on Saturday, said that unlike his father Hafez Assad, the current President of Syria Bashar Assad does not see the road to Washington running through Jerusalem.

“I am in favor of stretching a hand in peace to all actors in the region, but we should not be confused,” Ya’alon said.



“There are tremendous differences between Bashar Assad and his father. Hafez Assad lived in a unipolar world and knew the road to Washington ran through Jerusalem. Bashar Assad does not live in a unipolar world, and he prefers Teheran over Washington. He also is not convinced that the road to Washington runs through Jerusalem.”

Recently publicized US classified diplomatic cables released on the WikiLeaks website shows a split inside Israel between Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry officials regarding Syria.

A cable written from the US embassy in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2009, indicated that while Foreign Ministry officials believed Syria was only interested in a diplomatic process because it would give it international legitimacy, Defense Ministry officials viewed the Syrian-Iranian alliance as a “marriage of convenience,” and believed that Syria might be serious about removing itself from Iran and withdrawing support for Hizbullah in exchange for reconciliation with the West, especially the US, and the return of the Golan Heights.

In the cable, Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic-security bureau, was quoted as asserting that peace with Syria was “critical to achieving Israel-Palestinian peace due to Syria’s ability to support spoilers.”

According to the sources quoted in the Kuwaiti paper on Saturday, The Obama administration believes peace between Israel and Syria would constitute a breakthrough that would help kick-start stalled Israeli- Palestinian peace talks.

The paper quoted senior adviser to US President Barack Obama, Dennis Ross as saying the Syrians were prepared to distance themselves from Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas and cooperate with the US in the war on terrorism.

These recent developments, according to the paper, were responsible for Obama’s decision Wednesday to bypass the Senate and appoint Robert Ford as the first US ambassador to Damascus since 2005.


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