Solana: EU supports Syrian initiative to regain Golan Heights
EU foreign policy chief says in order for relations to resume, Syria's behavior must change.
The European Union supports Syria's goal of regaining the Golan Heights from Israel, the EU foreign policy chief said after meeting President Bashar Assad on Wednesday.
"We would like to work as much as possible to see your country Syria recuperate the territory taken in 1967," Javier Solana told a joint news conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.
Syria has made it clear that its cooperation to help end violence in Iraq would be tied to Western - especially U.S. - support for its peaceful campaign to regain the Golan Heights, which Israel conquered during the Six Day War four decades ago.
Solana also discussed the Lebanese crisis with Syrian leaders Wednesday on what was the first high-level visit by an EU official to Syria in more than two years.
Syria, through its state-run press, welcomed Solana's visit as a good move after a long absence.
Solana came to Syria on the final stop of a three-nation attempt to mediate an end to the crisis in Lebanon, where the Hezbollah-led opposition has staged three months of mass protests in a bid to topple the government. Nine people have been killed in street battles between government and opposition supporters.
He held talks with Moallem and Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa on Wednesday morning and was scheduled to meet President Bashar Assad later.
In Lebanon on Monday, where he began his mediating, Solana said he hoped his trip to Damascus would help spur an improvement in relations between the EU and Syria, but he added that Syrian policies had to change.
"In order to resume the relationship, we have to have a frank and sincere discussion about things that can change ... and we have to see how the behavior of our friends in Syria may change," Solana said.
He did not elaborate, but EU member states have criticized Syria for its role in Lebanon, where it is seen as undermining the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and is suspected of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
European governments also fault Syria for being the major patron of Hezbollah, whose seizure of two Israeli soldiers last July sparked a war with the Jewish state, and for hosting Palestinian militants opposed to the peace process.
Solana's visit to Damascus is a big and important step on the road to repairing two years of damage in Arab-EU relations, the official Syrian newspaper Tishrin said in an editorial Wednesday. Syria is receiving Solana with a lot of openness and a readiness to hear what he has to say as an EU envoy.
Solana visited Saudi Arabia on Tuesday where he discussed Lebanon with the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, in Riyadh.
He is expected to return to Europe late Wednesday.