Assad: Israel blocking peace in Mideast

Syrian president Assad warns failure of negotiations will lead to more "resistance" to "the occupation."

Walid Moallem 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Walid Moallem 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday called Israel the "major obstacle" to peace in the Middle East and warned that a failure of negotiations would open the way for more "resistance" in occupied lands. The Syrian leader blamed Israel for the breakdown of the Turkey-brokered indirect peace talks between the two neighboring countries, saying "the failure of the peace process is a blatant demonstration that Israel is the major obstacle to peace." "Our experience with Israel during indirect peace negotiations mediated by Turkey is further proof of this," Assad said in a speech opening the foreign ministers' meeting of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Syrian leader said that Damascus continues to consider peace as a "strategic goal that must be reached one day," and he blamed Israel for the lack of progress since the launching of the internationally sponsored peace process in the early 1990s. "The failure of the process so far showed blatantly that Israel is the greatest obstacle facing the hope for peace," Assad said. Assad went on to warn the the failure of negotiations would lead to more acts of rightful "resistance" against Israel. "Failure of political efforts to regain legitimate rights will give the resistance the right to carry out its duty in order to regain those rights," he concluded. On Friday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem responded to recent calls to renew peace negotiations with Jerusalem by saying that such talks were worthless in the absence of an Israeli promise to return the Golan Heights. Moallem said Friday on Syrian state television that "an Israeli guarantee to withdraw from the Golan Heights is... necessary for peace. "If Israel will not honor these needs, there is no point to conduct baseless peace talks," Moallem insisted. Negotiations will not succeed if Israel does not show a real intention to achieve peace and without American involvement, Moallem said, adding that Damascus would not return to talks that would only "waste time." On Wednesday, meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that he was prepared to immediately renew unconditional peace negotiations with Syria.