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(photo credit: AP)
A number of world leaders beat a path to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s door over the weekend, with US Senator John Kerry leading the way, meeting with Assad on Saturday, less than two months after his last visit, when he was said to have discussed reports that Damascus had transferred Scud missiles to Hizbullah.
Kerry, chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and a proponent of engagement with Damascus, is fast becoming the US administration’s key interlocutor with Syria; it was his third visit to the country since 2009. No statement was issued after the senator’s meeting with Assad on Saturday.
Kerry’s spokesman, Fredrick Jones, was quoted as saying the senator planned to speak with Assad about “a range of issues critical to the stability of the region. Kerry has consistently said that while the United States has serious, long-standing disagreements with Syria, in particular its support for Hizbullah and other terrorist groups, Syria can play a critical role in bringing peace and stability if it makes the strategic decision to do so.”
Israel had no comment on Kerry’s latest trip to Damascus.
Meanwhile, Assad used the visit of another international figure, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, to send antagonistic messages toward Israel.
It is “no longer acceptable to keep silent over Israel’s violations and its sowing the seeds of sedition in the region,” the Syrian news agency SANA quoted Assad as telling Kouchner on Sunday. “If the West wants security and stability in our region, it must start playing an active role to rein in Israel and curb its extremist and dangerous tendencies on the region’s security and stability.”
SANA quoted Kouchner as saying Paris wanted to play a more active part in the Middle East peace process and to facilitate dialogue between the parties – in his opinion, the only way to bring the long-standing conflict to a close.
Regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, Assad, according to SANA, praised the uranium-enrichment deal brokered last week by Turkey and Brazil, saying that the “successful mediation” proved that diplomacy, rather than “catastrophic confrontations,” can yield positive results.
Assad urged Western nations to “change their approach” toward Iran and its nuclear program.
France, according to Israeli officials, has taken the most determined
stance in the world against Iran’s nuclear program.
Assad, who just two years ago was isolated by most of the world, also
received German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Sunday.
“Whoever wishes to support the peace process in the Middle East must
also seek talks with Syria,” Westerwelle, on a three-day tour of the
region, was quoted as saying after meeting Assad.
But, he reportedly added, Germany expected Syria to “be prepared to
support forces of moderation.”