Syria President: Door is open to peace with Israel
Syrian president: We'll wait until new U.S. administration takes office before trying direct talks.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday that indirect negotiations with Israel have brought about the possibility of peace, though the two countries still have quite a way to go toward that goal.
Syria's foreign minister said last week that the talks had not made enough headway for the two sides to hold direct negotiations. In an interview with France-3 television, Assad said officials were working to make direct talks happen.
"Today there is a possibility of peace," Assad said. "But nonetheless, we cannot say that we are close to achieving peace. We are preparing for direct negotiations. When we reach that step, we will be able to say that we are approaching peace."
"Today, we can only say that we have opened the door to peace," he said, in remarks in Arabic that were dubbed over in French.
Turkey has mediated a series of indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel in a bid to get the sides to meet face-to-face and end their decades-old enmity. Assad said that direct talks in the future could happen with U.S., French and Turkish backing.
Despite his comments about potential peace, Assad said he believes that Israel could try to launch different attacks, maybe against Iran, and maybe also against Lebanon, and of course it could launch an attack on Syria. He said such attacks would have catastrophic results.
Direct Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations under U.S. sponsorship collapsed in 2000.
Assad said the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush started to remember that there was something called peace seven years into its term, and that a new administration could help smooth the process.
"Of course we have to wait for the new administration to know what its orientations are," he said. "Afterward we can speak of direct negotiations."
Assad spoke with France 3 before a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which is a sign of warming ties between the two countries. Sarkozy, the prime minister of Turkey and the emir of Qatar will hold a summit with Assad in Damascus on Thursday.