President Bashar Al-Assad: the Man of Peace (4)

The realization of the just and comprehensive peace has ever been the noble objective of H.E. President Bashar Al-Assad. Actually, all the measures and political moves taken by the Syrian leadership aim at the restoration of stability, security and realization of the peace. This strategy of peace has been characterized and reflected by H.E. President Al-Assad through:

The course of events during the latest few years has proved that the realization of peace is the vital interest for all. The basics for the process of peace are quite clear; that is the return of the Land on the bases of Madrid Terms of Reference, the principle of the Land for the Peace, Resolution 242, and the return of the Golan: the full return of the Land is the Principle not to be discussed.

The Arab Peace Initiative (API) without peace has no value. If peace was to be realized on the bases of the Peace Terms of Reference (PTR) - UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and the Principle of the Land for Peace- then, in accordance with API, Arab countries would sign. We negotiate on the bases of the PTR, and not on the bases of API, which is NOT the PTR. PTR are present including the right to return. If Olmert were to say now that he were prepared for negotiations, what would we say to him? Regardless of the API, we say to him you are a criminal; we do not negotiate with a criminal.

Peace without Syria is unthinkable.

The only option left for the Israelis is to abide to peace with its due prerequisites. The peace is never to be attained as long as the title to take pride in Israel remains through whom to more blood-stain his/her hands with the blood of Arabs. We do not see this option- peace option- now, and would never see it tomorrow till we change it through our will in the absence of their will.

The more we go ahead in providing proofs for our serious desire for peace, and the more of compromises we offer for peace, the more Israel goes ahead with its intransigency and disregard for our legitimate rights.

It is natural that in a later stage, we are to move to direct negotiations; Peace cannot be achieved only through the indirect negotiations, it is like a process of construction: we construct the solid foundations, and then, construct the building, and not the opposite. What we are doing through the indirect negotiations is to lay the foundation for this huge building; if the foundation base is successful, the direct negotiations would be a successful stage, and then, naturally, the peace is realized.

We still see the motto of peace used as part of the domestic political game in Israel, as a fundamental element of the foreign political maneuvers whirlpool, which hides of facts more than shows. Peace has never been the basic preoccupation for the Israelis; their preoccupation, however, is security with its bottle-necked meaning, and which is, as far as their vision, not to be realized but at the expense of Arabs’ security and rights.

The Israelis have to provide proofs and to express through deeds their willingness for peace; they have to convince us, the Arabs, with this; hence they occupy our territories, launch aggression against our people, and displace the millions of our families.

We cannot construct a building without the presence of strong foundations. Currently, we are in the stage of laying the foundation stones down; that means firstly confidence among the parties of the peace process, and secondly the basics and terms of reference, upon which direct negotiations to depend. Once we have prepared these factors or elements, we would be able to move forward to the direct negotiations, which need the presence of the United States of America, along with the other parties participating in sponsoring the process of peace.

The Syrian land is occupied by Israel so they have to give us back our land. We don't have something to give but we have something to achieve together, which is peace. It is not something we have. So, if both sides achieve a certain treaty, including giving back the Golan Heights, this means achieving peace. The other thing besides the land is discussing normal relations, water, security arrangements and all these details that are related to the concept of peace. As I said, it is something we achieve together, but Israel has the land and should give it back.

The Israelis have been talking about negotiations without pre-conditions. So, they cannot ask for conditions for the negotiations, and they have not asked either. This is first. Second, Hamas is related to the Palestinian Track and we are talking about the Syrian track; we are not responsible for that track. Hizbollah is part of the Lebanese track and we are not in Lebanon today. So, we are only talking about the Syrian track. This is our position.

Syria is not against direct negotiations. We have agreed to them since the [1991] Madrid Middle East Peace Conference... whenever the atmosphere was appropriate for direct negotiations, the Success of the negotiations depends on the Israeli side and is related to the capability of the Israeli government and its stability to achieve this success.

We have explained our vision for peace and are waiting for the Israeli response. However, our earlier experience in negotiations with Israel was not encouraging, and what Syria is doing now is making sure that Israel is ready for peace.

The basic role in the peace process is for the US because of its relation with Israel; not because it is stronger or weaker; but because the US has strong relations with Arab sides, and further stronger with Israel. There is a need for a party to exert pressure on Israel, or to influence it in the peace process.

No success whatsoever is to take place  in light of the Israeli intransigency. When Lavrov- the Russian Foreign Minister- visited Syria, he was not clear regarding the content of such a conference. It is not suffice to talk about the conference; what does a conference mean? Is it to meet around the table? What is important is the content. So far, we have received nothing regarding the content; we are not sure about the convening date of such a conference. The problem is not only the Israeli intransigency; but is within the US Administration, which has a big saying to this effect. So far nothing clear before us as to make us optimistic, though we have backed whatever conference to be convened in Moscow considering its credibility with Arabs as far as the cause of peace. Would Moscow be allowed to succeed? We do not trust neither Israel, nor the US.

The principle for Syria is to reject whatever talks or secret contacts with Israel whatever they might be. Syria is to declare for the public opinion -every peace-related- issue. The criterion for accepting whatever talks that they should be characterized with seriousness in commitment to the United Nations resolutions, especially when the Israeli side knows very well what is accepted by Syria and what is not.

If wars and occupations were to be among the most dangerous issues we have encountered  last decades, the battle of peace was of no less importance; we ,all, have realized ,from long years , the importance of peace; and expressed this from more than three decades out of our belief in just and comprehensive peace, and our willingness to achieve peace, passing through Madrid Conference in 1991, reaching to the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, which was a clear-cut expression for our intention as Arab countries together to achieve peace, if Israel were to express the real willingness to this effect.

The peace is never to be realized but through the withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, the restoration of the rights in full. That is to say, the Israeli concept of security first is not realizable, because the occupation contradicts both the security and peace. If the security was not to be mutual including the Arab side, it- security- remains but an illusion never existent; save that when those who have this view- security first- were to suppose or were to be in waiting from the owners of the land to surrender to the occupation, or the for the free  to accept being transformed into slaves! Considering the experience of history, such logic is defeated; even if it was to exist during some moments, it is but temporary and tricky to be followed only with the  more of wars, destructions and blood.

Trust is missing between us and the Israelis. This trust today, even if it a little bit existed previously, is frankly null. We trust the Turks , there is a reciprocal trust to a big extent between us; and we told the Turks that once we were to receive the said guarantees, we can by then say that the climate is prepared for peace. Then, we can talk with other forces, and especially with the USA, as to resume the negotiations. However, we are quite certain that this US Administration has never worked for peace.

Our desire for peace in no way means the renunciation of our rights. Syria, leadership, people, and army, is never to accept but the restoration of the Golan fully to the borders of June 4, 1967. The liberation of our occupied land is the  sacred duty, before being the legitimate right guaranteed by the international legitimacy and its affiliated organizations resolutions.

As to be assured that the negotiations will not be regarding the territory, hence the territory is to be restored fully, we negotiate other issues: define the line of June 4, 1967, on the map, discuss security arrangements, relations, as it happened during Rabin days.

Peace should be based on a number of factors and all parties should be ready to commit themselves to the terms of this peace since it was launched in Madrid 1991.

The achievement of peace also requires a fair sponsor who has interest to end tension in the region and has actual Will to tackle this issue… and this sponsor is not existed now.

peace to Syria is a strategy and her call to peace expresses willingness and efforts to restore the occupied lands and achieve security and stability to her people.

Theoretically 80 percent of the issues were solved and what remained is 20 percent , and the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories doesn't need more than six months if the Israeli are honest toward the peace process. (in the year 2006)

We are convinced that the natural way to achieve peace is through negotiations. But when this option fails, or when it is not available in the first place, resistance, in its different forms, is the alternative for restoring rights. Resistance is not necessarily or exclusively armed, it could be cultural or political or might take different forms of rejection. So, supporting resistance aims at achieving peace not war through deterring against aggression. If this does not work, it might be through war in order to liberate the land.

Resistance is not contradictory to peace or an alternative for it. In our circumstances at least, it is necessary for the achievement of peace. Otherwise, the result will be that we will lose the battle of war and the battle for peace, particularly that Israel and those who stand behind it have shifted completely to adopting the military option based on pre-emptive war, while we the Arabs have remained in our place discoursing and negotiating with ourselves convinced of a promised peace with an illusory party which prepares itself on a daily basis for its next aggression on the Arabs.

The peace process between Syria and Israel that started in 1991. It is paralyzed now. We have daily bloodshed in our region: in Iraq, in Palestine and in the occupied territories in Syria and Lebanon. They tried to make an embargo against Syria while they wanted us to help them in the security issues. They tried to prevent any kind of support from European countries to Syria. They work against the association between Syria and the EU They prevented even private companies from coming to Syria and helping in the development in our country. (in the year 2006)

Israel has blocked all the roads to the Middle East peace process, not only because of the rejection by Israeli successive governments to respond to the peace requirement and continued denial of the Arab basic rights but also because the current international situation and influential power are not ready to push the peace process forward, as well as for the backing down of the international community to meet their obligation towards the peace process and stability in the region.

Since we have not talked today about resolutions 338 and 242 because they have become self evident for us, and because we know that we waste our time when we talk about the non-implementation of international legitimacy resolutions and the double standards and all that.

Well, let me start from the memoir of President Clinton, who mentioned that round in Shepherdstown [West Virginia, at a January 2000 summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa]. And he said Syria was ready to make peace and it was forthcoming toward peace, but Barak couldn't deliver. So we were ready in 2000, and we were ready in 1991, when the peace process launched in Madrid.

Of course Israel has been proposing that we should go back to the negotiations without any preconditions. Many of the delegations that visited Syria asked about the Syrian conditions. When we say we don’t have any conditions they are usually surprised. They say that Israel claims you have preconditions. Israel’s objective is to give the impression that it is prepared for peace but the problem is the conditions put by Syria. In actual fact Israel puts the condition of going back to square one. We talked about resuming negotiations from the point they had stopped. They want to go back to square one. We tell our international visitors: you want to achieve peace and at the same time you ask as to disagree about what we have already agreed on! This means lack of seriousness and lack of credibility, because every Israeli government comes and says that they are not responsible for what the previous Israeli government approved. We stress that we are prepared for negotiations without any preconditions in accordance with the Madrid terms of reference. In other words, we resume from the point we stopped at in the early 1990s.

The problem of the peace process now (2004) is that they (the Israelis) were escaping from the implementation of the Security Council resolutions to partial mysterious and unclear agreements that need explanation. For example, the Oslo accord. What is taking place in Palestine now is a result of Oslo. They had signed an unclear accord, without implementation. It did not include clear items. It was words only. ‏ Then came Wye River, then Tenet and Mitchell’s plans and now the Roadmap. ‏ The peace process needs one agreement not ten. ‏ Now after the Roadmap, they talked about the Geneva initiative. If you have the Madrid terms of reference why do you need all this? This is what we have repeatedly confirmed in Syria. They have put forward the Roadmap and many initiatives. We said no, there is Madrid conference, i.e., the implementation of the Security Council resolutions. The basic thing is to return to the Security Council resolutions firstly and to work out mechanism secondly. The natural mechanism is negotiations in order to start these negotiations and to have a proper mechanism, that is the role of the sponsor? How can we deal with a party which hampers the peace process? Israel hampered it and nobody in the world has done anything. When you feel that you can obstruct the peace process why do you walk towards peace? The world must make Israel or any other party implement the Security Council resolutions. It must implement these resolutions, otherwise, it will become isolated. This is our vision of the peace process.

Dr. Mohammad Abdo Al-Ibrahim