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    » 01/27/2009, 00.00

    SYRIA - UNITED STATES

    Assad: ready to dialogue with Obama, but "without conditions"



    The Syrian president speaks of positive signs from the new American administration, and reveals that officials close to the new president have already visited Damascus. Talks with Israel remain frozen.

    Beirut (AsiaNews) - Syria is ready to dialogue with Obama's new U.S. administration, but "without conditions," while it is keeping indirect talks with Israel "frozen." Syrian president Bashar Assad made the remarks in an interview with al-Manar, the Lebanese television station owned by Hezbollah.

    "We have positive signs" from the new administration, he said, "but we have learned to be cautious and not to count on such signs as long as there is nothing tangible." Assad also revealed that officials close to the Obama administration were sent to Damascus weeks before the inauguration of the new president, as a prelude to dialogue. But "if there are conditions, then there will be no dialogue. They know that."

    Currently there is no United States ambassador in Damascus. The representative was withdrawn four years ago by the Bush administration, because of Syria's support for terrorists in Iraq and interference in Lebanon.

    As for the indirect talks that were underway with Israel with Turkey's mediation, and which Syria suspended at the beginning of the Israeli attack on Gaza, Assad maintained that there are no prospects for an immediate resumption, and reiterated that the complete withdrawal of the Israelis from the Golan Heights, occupied during the war in 1967, is an absolute condition. "We will never abandon this," he said.

    Yesterday, outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert seemed more optimistic on relations with Syria. "At the end of the day," he said, "we will be able to reach an agreement that will end the conflict between us and the Syrians." "They have lots of aspirations, lots of desires - sometimes entirely unrealistic - but they also know that it is better to make peace with Israel than to fight with Israel."

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    See also

    17/11/2008 KOREA - UNITED STATES
    Obama could have tremendous influence on relations between the two Koreas
    Experts observe that the "team" of the government that the newly elected US president is selecting appears inclined to seek joint solutions with Pyongyang, and to resolve problems with direct talks. But this could cause problems in relations with Seoul.

    28/07/2008 SYRIA - ISRAEL
    Syrian ambassador to the United States, "historic opportunity for Israel to make peace"
    The diplomat, believed to be close to president Assad, affirms that with the restitution of the Golan Heights to his country, the Jewish state could put an end to hostility with the entire Arab world.

    04/07/2008 ISRAEL - SYRIA
    "Constructive" peace talks between Jerusalem and Damascus
    In the talks, mediated by Turkey, the next meeting was set for the end of July: at that session, they will decide whether to open direct negotiations. But the U.S. ambassador to Israel says that his country does not want to take part in the negotiations, as Syria would like.

    21/05/2008 ISRAEL - SYRIA - TURKEY
    It's official: Damascus and Jerusalem are talking peace
    Sources of both governments have made the announcement simultaneously. Talks are taking place thanks to the mediation of Turkey. The process does not look easy: in exchange for the Golan Heights, Israel wants peace from Syria, plus an end to support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and separation from Iran.

    05/09/2008 SYRIA
    Fifth round of indirect talks between Damascus and Jerusalem set for September 18
    The announcement was made during the summit in Damascus with France, Turkey, and Qatar, which put an end to Syria's international isolation. Discussions should include the crucial question of borders. But the big decisions are suspended in anticipation of the successors to Bush and Olmert.



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