Assad: By war or peace, we will liberate the Golan
Syrian leader intensifies rhetoric against Israel, vows future generations of Arabs will embrace 'resistance'.
Syrian President Bashar Assad is escalating his rhetoric against Israel, vowing that "the day in which we will be liberated [on the Golan] is at hand - by peace or war."
Assad told the Qatari newspaper A-Sharq in an interview published on Thursday: "This enemy does not want peace. What is the alternative? The parallel route to the peace process is resistance. The Israeli will not come by his own will, so there is no alternative but for him to come from fear."
In his first public statements since assuming his post this week, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was cool to continued peace talks with Damascus.
"There is no cabinet resolution regarding negotiations with Syria, and we have already said that we will not agree to withdraw from the Golan Heights," Lieberman said. "Peace will only be in exchange for peace."
The Syrian leader added that future generations will veer towards resistance against occupation, namely terrorist attacks and violence, and away from peace. Time, Assad said, is working in favor of the Arabs rather than Israel.
Assad was taken aback when asked why Syria, which supports Hezbollah's military activities in southern Lebanon, refuses to open a direct front against Israel on the Golan Heights.
He replied that suicide bombers only embark on their mission when they believe in the justness of their cause, not when they are persuaded to do so.
"As for resistance on the Golan, there are objective circumstances, especially since in most of the Golan there are no civilians because all of them were expelled from there in 1967," Assad told A-Sharq.
"Resistance comes about when there is no state infrastructure that is gearing up towards liberating the land, and in our country the army and the economy are slated for liberation," Assad said.
Assad's comments follow a pattern of similar statements he has made in recent weeks. While insisting that he will be ready to hold negotiations with any government in Israel, including that of Benjamin Netanyahu, he is conditioning those talks on an Israeli statement declaring its readiness to withdraw from all of the Golan Heights. The alternative, he warned, will be violence.
Assad on Monday urged Arab leaders convened in Qatar for a regional summit to reject a 2002 Saudi peace initiative, as Israel had demonstrated that it was not a "real partner" to peace.
"The real aim of Israel's recently elected government is against peace and that the composition of the incoming cabinet is a clear, unsurprising message to us," Assad said.
"We Arabs, since we offered the Arab initiative, do not have a real partner in the peace process," he told the leaders.
Assad's speech suggested Assad still hopes for talks but was taking a tougher tone to confront what he expects to be a hard-line stance from Netanyahu's government coalition, dominated by right-wing parties.
Last month, Assad told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that Ehud Olmert agreed to withdraw from all of the Golan Heights during indirect peace talks with Damascus.
Assad said Israel and Syria were within "touching distance" of clinching a peace agreement.