Thursday, December 9, 2010

Assad: 'No One Wants Strife In Lebanon'

Syrian president says ‘there is no Saudi-Syrian initiative per se’ to resolve Lebanese crisis

By Agence France Presse (AFP) and The Daily Star
This article was published in The Daily Star on 10/12/2010

Assad: 'No one wants strife in Lebanon'
PARIS: Syrian President Bashar Assad said Thursday that no one wants civil strife in Lebanon, amid tensions ahead of indictments over the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“No one wants there to be clashes, fitna [strife within the Muslim community], between Lebanese,” Assad said after lunchtime talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy centered on Lebanon, for decades dominated by Syria. Assad also highlighted his country did not want to meddle in Lebanese affairs concerning the current deadlock over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

Asked about an eventual Syrian-Saudi initiative in Lebanon, Assad said his country and Saudi Arabia were helping the Lebanese find solutions to the deadlock. “There is no Saudi-Syrian initiative per se,” he told reporters. “The solution can only be Lebanese, it can be neither Syrian, nor Saudi, nor French.

Hariri was assassinated in a massive car bombing in Beirut that killed 22 others, and the UN-backed STL tasked with finding who was responsible has said it will issue indictments “very soon.”
The killing led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops who had been in neighboring Lebanon since the early days of the devastating 1975-1990 Civil War.

Several foreign media have reported that the tribunal will indict members of Hizbullah, Syria’s strongest ally in Lebanon. The group has warned any such accusation would have grave repercussions in Lebanon.
Assad said that his country, and Saudi Arabia and France, were coordinating on Lebanon. But he reiterated that a solution ought to be a purely Lebanese one. Assad traveled to Saudi Arabia in October to discuss Lebanese tensions heightened by the UN-backed probe into the Hariri killing.

“We [Syrians] don’t want to intervene, we don’t want to interfere in an internal Lebanese situation,” Assad said. Tackling the peace process, Assad said Israel was not a peace partner, while also slamming an Israeli law requiring a referendum ahead of a withdrawal from Arab lands occupied since 1967.

“This Israeli position is completely unacceptable from a legal point of view,” Assad said of the November 23 law, following talks with Sarkozy. The law requires any government signing a peace deal that cedes territory in occupied East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967, to secure approval either from parliament or a referendum.

It would not affect territorial concessions within the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

With peace talks stalled as Israel continues to authorize settlement building in the West Bank, Assad said that US mediation efforts should not be blamed. “Before blaming the sponsor, you have to blame the concerned parties. Today, we notice that there is no Israeli peace partner,” he said. Assad added that he was opposed to the issue of Jewish settlement building on occupied Arab land being at the center of peace talks.

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