Assad: Peace possible with Netanyahu

Syrian leader defends ties with Iran, says Israel's choice of right-wing gov't evidence of "confusion."

Assad 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Assad 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's choice of a right-wing government and the ascension of Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu do not present a long-term hindrance to the ongoing peace talks between Israel and Syria, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Wednesday. Speaking to the Lebanese daily As-Safir, the Syrian leader said that Netanyahu's influence on the process would only be "tactical, rather than strategic." Assad commented on the Israeli electorate's change of heart in the last election, saying that the rightward shift was evidence of "[Israel's] failure and the confusion that has taken hold of it." There had been no breakthroughs in the indirect talks, which, he said, had "stalled, again, on the issue of the June 4, 1967 armistice lines." The Syrian president expressed his dismay over the fact that the Syrian-Israeli track did not appear to figure prominently on the agenda of US President Barack Obama. "The signs that have been conveyed to us are promising," he said, "but Syria is expecting actions. The US administration has been quick to announce two withdrawal initiatives - in Iraq and Afghanistan - but has yet to carry out any tangible steps in our region." Assad reiterated that his country's relations with Iran were "strategic," adding, "Iran backs us up, while our relationship with the US is not strategic and America does not stand alongside Syria, but rather alongside Israel." The Syrian leader also repeated his country's claim that traces of uranium found on the site of an alleged North Korean-sponsored nuclear facility in northern Syria may have come from Israeli bombs dropped on the installation in a September 2007 strike. "I mean, it's an open area and anyone can dump massive quantities of uranium there," Assad said. "In any case, we don't have a nuclear facility and the UN inspectors know this. They announced that they found uranium only eight months after the fact in order to provide an excuse for the air-strike. We told them, 'Okay, so you've found uranium, but only a few crumbs. If we were enriching uranium then where were the emergency plans, the explosion, the radiation?'"