Syrian envoy: Peace is Israel's path to security

Ahmad Samir al-Taki to 'Post:' Israel must focus on making peace with their neighbors, not using force.

Assad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Assad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A Syrian adviser told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday that the Israeli people must focus on building peace with their neighbors, not on using their military might. "It's not by power that you can build up your security. It's not by weakening your neighbors that you can build up your security. It's by peace," declared Ahmad Samir al-Taki, an adviser to Syrian Prime Minister Naji Otari and a former member of parliament. "Peace is the best way to build up security." Taki was responding to a question from the Post asking if he had a message for the Israeli public. He was speaking at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in a private capacity along with other members of the US-Syria Working Group, a small coalition of Syrians and Americans seeking to improve ties between the two countries coordinated by the NGO Search for Common Ground. The group is visiting Washington in an unofficial capacity, and a meeting that the US State Department originally said would take place with Assistant Secretary of State David Welch was dropped from the agenda Wednesday without explanation. The visit, though, comes at a time when Israel and Syria have publicly announced that they're engaged in indirect negotiations through Turkey, the first opening between the countries in years. "For the time being, everything is going quite well in terms of eliminating the gaps," al-Taki told the Brookings audience. "It's obvious that these negotiations could turn into direct talks." He said that Syria's main focus of the indirect talks was now to assess whether Israel was serious about willingness to trade land for peace. He also said that water - which has proved an obstacle in Israel-Syria talks before - was no longer an obstacle, as there were several ways of resolving that issue. At the same time, he urged an American presence as crucial if Israel wants to move from bilateral to regional issues. "The presence of the Americans is very, very much a necessity," he said. Israel wants to remove Syria from the Iranian orbit and end support for Hamas and Hizbullah as part of any peace deal. Taki rejected the idea that Syria would break its alliance with Iran, saying these ties had sprung up as the old regional paradigm of an Egyptian-Saudi-Syrian triangle disintegrated - but that there was room for flexibility. "Syria will not change its alliance with Iran, but the type of this alliance, the aim of this alliance, will change drastically" if other regional variables shift, he said. Yet he warned that the regional tensions had been escalating, leading to some of the current progress but still boiling underneath. "All that's being done now is just cooling down. Everything is very precarious, very fragile," he said.