Assad: Syria Has No Preconditions for Peace Talks With Israel

Assad said earlier this week resistance could be alternative to failed talks; Peres: Open talks immediately.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Wednesday that he would not set any preconditions for peace negotiations with Israel.

"Resistance is the essence of our policy in the past and in future. We have no conditions to achieve peace but rather rights and we will not abandon them," he said.

In a speech opening the 5th Conference of the Arab Parties titled "The Independent Arab Decision", Assad stressed that Arab solidarity is a necessity for the independence of the Arab decision.

The Syrian president added that his country must remain strong in all aspects, in order to attain a favorable peace agreement.

"The new Middle East we've started building is a Middle East whose essence is resistance," said Assad.

Assad's remarks came a day after President Shimon Peres called on his Syrian counterpart to engage in direct peace talks with Israel without delay.

"I am calling on President Assad to join us in direct and immediate negotiations, without mediators, without conditions, without postponements," Peres said in his speech to Brazil's parliament.

On Monday, Assad warned that ailure of Middle East peace negotiations would lead Arabs to turn to resistance as an "alternative solution".

At an Istanbul meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Assad called "resistance to the occupation a national duty," adding that "to support it is a moral and legal duty and standing by it is an honor which makes us proud."

Assad said that Arabs had a "fixed desire for the realization of a just and comprehensive peace on the basis of the return of the occupied territories, especially Occupied Syrian Golan," but added that "the failure of negotiations in returning all rights means existence of the resistance as an alternative solution." In his speech, Assad seemed to be referring to Israeli "occupation" on a whole, and not just to his own country or to the Palestinians.

The Syrian leader said that rather than discussing a settlement freeze in the West Bank, he wanted to see a complete demolition of Israeli infrastructure there.

"What about dismantling settlements instead of stopping them and more importantly, what about ending the occupation?" he said.

"We have to keep the problem in its basic framework," he said. "The real cause of it is the Zionist occupation. We must begin to work for the elimination of the occupation since it ensures us stopping then removing the settlements and not the opposite."

Assad on Sunday urged Turkey to maintain good relations with Israel, in order to serve as an effective mediator in peace negotiations between Jerusalem and Damascus. Syria has called for the renewed talks and stipulated that it trusted only Turkey to broker the negotiations.