Assad: 'Through war or peace we'll free Golan'

Syrian president says Hizbullah, Syria both fighting for same goals; Syria won't end support for group.

Assad Bashir 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Assad Bashir 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Syrian President Bashar Assad said his country would regain the Golan Heights by "peace or war" and affirmed Syria's ties to Iran, in an interview with a Qatari newspaper that was published on Thursday. "The day must come and we will liberate (the Golan Heights) by peace or war," he told the A-Sharq newspaper. "When a citizen loses hope, he walks toward 'the resistance' in one way or another." Resistance is a code word for violence and terror and is used to describe groups such as Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Assad's remarks were printed a day after Israel's new Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he opposed any withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace deal with Syria. "I am very much in favor of peace with Syria, but only on one basis - peace in return for peace," Lieberman told Channel 2, adding that there would be "no withdrawals from the Golan during my time and hopefully not at any time." Syria has insisted that there would be no peace with Israel until it returned the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967. Supporting the right to resist Israeli occupation, Assad said that "the enemy does not want peace and so what is the alternative or the parallel path to the peace process? It is the resistance." As for Hizbullah, "Israel has an issue with the Israeli enemy and we have the same issue, and as a result we support it," he said. Because it is a national party that has a religious agenda that includes the Lebanese homeland, "it is natural that we would have good relations with it." But as Western-backed Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, are trying to lure Syria away from Iran, Assad suggested that those efforts were futile. "How can we disengage these ties while Iran stands with us in a difficult stage and stands with the Palestinian cause?" he asked. But Assad stressed that his country's relationship with Teheran was not at the expense of Arab states. Assad also expressed his country's readiness to help Washington withdraw from Iraq and called the start of relations with the new Obama administration "promising." As for the new Israeli government, Assad said there was no difference between the right and left in Israel. "The previous government launched wars against Lebanon and massacres and I believe that all of them are similar to one another," he said. AP contributed to this report.