VIDEO / Syria President: Israel is not genuine about peace
Assad to Arab parliamentarians: We won't offer goodwill gestures as Israel is the one occupying our land.
Syrian President Bashar Assad accused Israel of working toward peace with its Arab neighbors for the sake of internal political gain alone, calling the country's peace efforts "not genuine."
"Until now, we've seen the peace slogans in use in the internal political game in Israel, and as part of Israel's maneuvering spin on its foreign policy," Assad told the opening session of a meeting of Arab parliamentarians in Damascus on Sunday.
The Syrian leader called on Israel to clarify its outlook on peace among nations, and accused its neighbor of professing to want peace as a series of tactical moves, rather than a strategy.
Syria and Israel recently held four rounds of indirect talks, mediated by Turkey. But the talks made no significant headway, and Syria said a fifth round was postponed at Israel's request.
Assad emphasized that Syria will continue to work toward achieving peace in the region. However, he said that his country will not relinquish any of its rights, and will not offer any goodwill gestures to indicate to Israel that it is interested in peace, as Israel has demanded. "They are the ones occupying our land, attacking us and uprooting millions of our people," Assad said.
"The clear truth is that peace is not a top priority for the Israelis," Assad went on to say. "Israel cares about its own security in the narrowest sense, but it will not achieve its own security in any other way but at the expense of the rights and security of the Arabs."
In reference to the indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel, Assad commented that the existence of the talks does not prevent Syria from evaluating reality correctly. "Israel hasn't removed from its agenda the concept of attack. What causes this is Israel's fear of peace," he said.
Assad also criticized a proposed American-Iraqi security pact that would keep U.S. troops in Iraq for three more years.
He said that American troops contribute to regional instability and should withdraw from Iraq.
Assad told the group of parliamentarians that a recent American raid inside Syria near its border with Iraq is confirmation that the U.S. will use Iraq as a base to attack its neighbors.
Iraq has asked the U.S. for an explicit ban in the pact on the use of Iraqi soil for attacks against the country's neighbors. The U.S. has replied to the request, but the details are not known.
U.S. officials say the Syria raid targeted a top al-Qaida in Iraq figure. Syria says it killed eight civilians.