Syrian FM: Israel doesn't want peace

Ahead of Arab summit, Moallem says Jerusalem pursues aggressive policies, supported by US.

Israel pursues aggressive policies which contradict the atmosphere needed for peace, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Thursday at a meeting with foreign ministers from other Arab nations, ahead of the Arab summit in Damascus due to commence on Saturday. The Syrian FM claimed that unlike Syria, Israel does not have a true political desire for peace. In his opening speech at the meeting, Moallem said that "the aggressive policies and actions that Israel undertakes and which are supported unconditionally by the US create a situation that is not conducive to achieving peace." "Our position on peace in the Middle East is known to all," Moallem said. "We support a just and all-inclusive peace in accordance with UN resolutions and based on the principal of 'land for peace.'" "Our position on making peace in the Middle East is clear," Moallem said. "We are for a just and comprehensive peace and the principle of land for peace, but we are certain still incapable of having the genuine political will for making peace." Moallem's comments came a day after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted at the prospect of secret talks with Syria. "I [have] said indeed that I'm prepared to make peace with Syria," Olmert said at a press conference with the foreign media in Jerusalem. "I hope that the Syrians are prepared to make peace with Israel, and I hope that the circumstances will allow us to sit together. That doesn't mean that when we sit together, you have to see us." Meanwhile, the Syrian FM also urged Arabs to overcome their differences through "objective and honest" discussions at this weekend's summit. The summit has been riven by deep divisions between Arab leaders, mainly over alleged Syrian meddling in Lebanese affairs. Lebanon has announced it is boycotting the summit, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia have announced they are sending only low-level officials to the gathering in a snub to Syria. But Moallem said that Saudi Arabia must also help solve the political crisis in Lebanon. "Syrian efforts alone are not enough," he said. "There should be a combined effort by all Arab parties which have friendships and influence in Lebanon, especially our brothers in Saudi Arabia." The convening of the annual summit in Damascus has worsened the split between Syria and US-allied Arab countries, who have been at odds with Syria over a host of issues for the past three years. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are particularly angry at Syria over the political crisis in Lebanon, where they accuse Damascus of blocking the election of a new president through its Hizbullah allies. The United States and its Arab allies back Lebanon's anti-Syrian government led by Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Moallem appealed to Arab countries to overcome their differences. "We have an agenda laden with complicated problems and hot issues ... but our differences, whatever they are, must not overshadow what we have in common," he said. "Through objective and honest dialogue ... we can find effective solutions." Moallem said Syria wanted a settlement to the Lebanese crisis. "We are the first to lose from the escalation of the situation in Lebanon and we will be the first to benefit from the country's stability,' he said. "Syria wants a Lebanon that is sovereign, independent and stable, and anyone who thinks or wants to think otherwise is mistaken," Moallem added. On Wednesday, Moallem said Saniora's government in Lebanon, by boycotting the gathering, lost a key opportunity to discuss its political crisis and Lebanese-Syrian relations. He said Arab leaders intended to discuss the presidential crisis in the summit's closed-door meetings. He stopped short of criticizing Saudi Arabia and Egypt for not sending their leaders, telling reporters in Damascus that "it is a sovereign decision ... Syria welcomes any kind of representation."