UK: Syria can help with Hamas, Lebanon

Junior minister visiting Damascus discusses "important opportunity" for peace with al-Moallem.

Walid Moallem 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Walid Moallem 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A junior minister with the British foreign office urged Syria on Tuesday to use its influence with Hamas and Hizbullah to stop violence against Israel and help create the climate for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Ivan Lewis spoke in Damascus after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. He is on a three-day visit to Syria and is scheduled to travel to Lebanon next. Syria is seen as a major Middle East player in part because of its support for Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and its backing for Hizbullah in Lebanon. Lewis said he discussed with al-Moallem the "important opportunity" presented by US President Barack Obama and the need for Syria to help create the conditions for peace. "We spoke of the very important opportunity that is now presented by President Barack Obama and we want Syria to use its influence in terms of helping to create the conditions now for the two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians," Lewis told reporters. Obama has supported the creation of a Palestinian state as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and called for a halt to Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank. He has sent his special Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, to the region to promote a comprehensive Arab-Israeli settlement. Syria's official news agency SANA quoted al-Moallem as telling Lewis that "a major obstacle" to Mideast peace came from "Israel's lack of political will to make peace." Lewis said he believes there is an opportunity to end the Middle East conflict by concluding comprehensive peace, creating a viable Palestinian state alongside a secured Israel and returning to Syria the Golan Heights seized by Israel in the Six Day War. But he stressed that this needs to be accompanied by "ending of the use of violence to promote or to presume political objectives which is why we want to see Syria exercise its influence over Hizbullah and Hamas in a positive way."