Assad: No indication Syria-Israel peace talks will resume soon
Remark by Syrian president comes after recent war of words between Damascus and Washington amid U.S. attempts to sway Syria away from Iran's influence.
The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't believe in peace and isn't interested in achieving it, the Syrian state news agency quoted President Bashar Assad as saying on Thursday, adding that there were no indications that the peace process would advance in the near future.
Speaking during a meeting with U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in Damascus, Assad expressed his appreciation of recent attempts by U.S. President Barack Obama to restart stagnant talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he believed there were no indications such efforts would bear fruit as a result of the "presence of an Israeli government which doesn't want peace and doesn't believe in it."
Assad's comments came amid a recent rejection of attempts U.S. attempts to sway Syria away from Iran's influence, as well as reports indicating Damascus' role in arming and training the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
On Tuesday, the Syrian president, speaking with Al-Hayat newspaper, accused the United States of sowing chaos overseas, snubbing Washington's efforts to improve ties with Damascus.
"Is Afghanistan stable? Is Somalia stable? Did they bring stability to Lebanon in 1983?" Assad asked, referring to U.S. intervention in Lebanon's 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.
In Washington, the State Department issued a strong rebuttal. Spokesman P.J. Crowley charged that Syria is destabilizing Lebanon by supplying arms to militants and issuing arrest warrants for Lebanese officials.
"These activities by Syria directly undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and directly undermine Syria's stated commitments to Lebanon's sovereignty and independence," Crowley said. We believe we're playing a constructive role in the region, and we believe that Syria is not.
The exchange between Washington and Damascus came as a Le Figaro report claimed Monday that Syria had a major role in replenishing the group's arsenal after its 2006 war with Israel, saying that Hezbollah had amassed some 40,000 missiles.
Satellite photos taken in March of last year and caught earlier this month show that the Syrian army has a Scud missile base near Damascus. While the images also suggest that Hezbollah activists are being trained in the Scuds' use at the base, Syria denies reports that it has supplied the militant group with those weapons.
The photos can be seen by any web surfer on Google Earth. They show extensive construction at several military bases throughout Syria, including at one of the country's three largest missile bases, located 25 kilometers northeast of Damascus, near the city of Adra.
The base is in a deep valley surrounded by 400-meter-high mountains. Concrete tunnels lead from the base into the mountains, where the Scuds are apparently stored.
The photos show five 11-meter-long missiles (the length of both the Scud B and the Scud C ) at the Adra base.