Syrian, Lebanese delegates slam Israel

Syrian delegate says Israeli withdrawal from Golan should not be considered a "painful compromise" as it was not Israel's land to begin with.

golan turbines 224. 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
golan turbines 224. 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Syrian delegate to the Annapolis Conference delivered a strident and uncompromising speech Tuesday afternoon saying that an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan should not be considered a "painful compromise" since it was not Israel's land to begin with. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad, speaking at a workshop entitled "Towards a Comprehensive Middle East Peace," said - according to Israeli officials who heard the speech - that Israel should return the Golan, and then Damascus would consider normalization of ties. No independent transcript of his comments was available. According to Israeli officials, Miqdad also called on Israel to leave the Sheba Farms-Har Dov area. As strident as Miqdad was in his comments, Lebanon's delegate - Minister of Culture Tarek Mitri - was even more so, saying that Israel needed to withdraw from not only Sheba Farms-Har Dov, but also the rest of the village of Rajr and a new area that he claimed Israel was occupying near the Sheba Farms. "He sounded like a mouthpiece for Hizbullah propaganda," said one Israeli official, who added that Mitri had raised the issue of Lebanese prisoners, something that is always in Hizbullah's arsenal. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, meanwhile, said at one of the conference's afternoon sessions that a great deal was riding on "the success or failure of this [Annapolis] undertaking." He said the Saudis came to Annapolis to "support the launching of serious and continuing talks" that will address all "core and final status issues." He said these talks needed to be followed by launching talks on the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese tracks. "It is absolutely necessary to establish an international follow-up mechanism that monitors progress in the negotiations among the parties, as well as the implementation of commitments made," he said. He also said Israel must freeze all settlement activity, dismantle the settlement outposts, release prisoners, stop building the security barrier, remove Israeli checkpoints and lift the "siege imposed on the Palestinian people." While in his speech Faisal did not deal with the issue of normalizing ties with Israel, a Saudi diplomat who did brief non-Israeli reporters on Tuesday said Israel could forget about normalization before peace was achieved with the Palestinians. "You can't have the fruits of peace before you have peace," the official said.