Monday, October 01, 2007

Assad sets conference conditions

Note that the BBC's Louisa Brooke correctly pointed out to me that the comments that led the news services to declare that Syria would be invited came with caveats.  Secretary Rice was answering a question, noting many behavioural concerns that may be cited to decline a Syrian presence at the conference.  Having said that, her own comments were the most conciliatory uttered yet.  If the US had wanted to make clear Syria wasn't coming, they could have (and would have by now).  Yet, Bashar's own caveats seem inappropriate.  Don't make him grovel. But the unimpressive gentleman with the excellent English should not dare to squander this opportunity for his country.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his government will not attend a Middle East peace conference unless Syria's concerns are addressed.

President Assad told the BBC that this meant primarily the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Mr Assad said no opportunity for peace should be squandered, but he saw little of the substance needed for success in US plans for a conference in November.

The talks are intended to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The US had said it would invite Syria, but only as a member of an Arab League committee dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

'Comprehensive peace'

In his BBC interview, Mr Assad stressed that Syria still needed more clarification about the conference before it took its decision whether to attend or not.

"So far we didn't have the invitation and we didn't have any clarification about anything," he said.

"If they don't talk about the Syrian occupied territory, no, there's no way for Syria to go there.

"It should be about comprehensive peace, and Syria is part of this comprehensive peace. Without that, we shouldn't go, we wouldn't go.

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