EU politician: No peace without Syria

European Parliament member says Syria will not allow any serious peace agreement to be reached without playing a central role in the negotiations.

assad supporters 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
assad supporters 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Syria will not allow any serious peace agreement to be reached without playing a central role in the negotiations, European Parliament member Jana Hybaskova told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday. Hybaskova, chairwoman of the Delegation for Relations with Israel and a member of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) who also sits on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Budgets, recently met with Syrian President Bashar Assad. She spent this week leading a delegation of European Parliament members in Israel. "[Syria] has the vision that there is no peace without Syria," Hybaskova said. The Syrians have an "overexaggerated sense" of their own importance, she said, adding, "They want to put themselves in the center... and that is the key," so if they cannot be part of masterminding the peace, "they want to destroy it." "That is a very dangerous message," she said. Hybaskova said she had been disappointed by the Syrians' "rigid" response on several issues, including the release of Syrian dissidents from jail, negotiations over the Golan Heights and the strengthening relationship with Russia. "I am very much concerned with the mounting influence of Russia - not only in Syria, but in the whole Middle East," she said. Hybaskova said she was particularly worried about Russia's ties with Iran and its actions to dissuade the construction of missile defense systems in Central and Eastern Europe. "Whenever we are active, Russians come and say, 'No, Iran is not that important. Do not build this defense,'" she said. Israel should use its "special relationship" with Russia to persuade Moscow to change its tune on missile defense and Iran in general, she said, citing the number of Russian immigrants in Israel and the trade between the two countries. "We do not want Iran to come up with a nuclear program. We realize this is a threat to all of Europe," she said. Turning to the issue of sanctions against Iran, Hybaskova said swaying Russia to support such moves was critical if economic isolation was to be truly effective. Europe, in general, needs to take a tougher stance on sanctions, she added, noting that more than 200 European Parliament members have called for harsher economic sanctions on Iran. In addition to diminishing economic ties between Iran and European countries, the European Parliament is also considering enacting measures that would stop Iranian flights from landing in Europe for commercial or private purposes, she said. As part of her visit to Israel, Hybaskova and half a dozen Parliament members visited Sderot on Monday. "We were truly shocked to visit places like Sapir College, which is sometimes the target of attacks three times a day.... This should be stopped. There is no democratic country that would sit and watch this happen and not act to protect its citizens," she said. While expressing doubt over the current methods the government was using in the Gaza Strip to stop terror, such as cutting power and electricity, Hybaskova said she knew of no other solutions. She said it was clear to her that Egypt could play a more active role in preventing smuggling along its border with the Gaza Strip. "Egypt [has shown] they have no capacity to control the border," she said. "We need to make them part of the solution and not part of the problem." "There needs to be a debate about the Egyptian role and Egyptian control of the border, especially the money and devices being smuggled to Egypt from Syria," she said. "Why is this being allowed to happen?" In search of answers, Hybaskova and the delegation will meet with Palestinian officials on Thursday to discuss expectations for the region and the upcoming Annapolis peace conference.