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Syrian President Bashar Assad congratulated Hezbollah yesterday for what he described as their success in "defeating Israel." Assad said that the members of the resistance used their "will, determination and faith" to counter Israeli arms, enabling them to defeat Israel.

"The resistance is necessary as much as it is natural and legitimate," he said. Assad said this war revealed the limitations of Israel's military power.

The Syrian leader also railed against the United States and moderates in Lebanon, declaring that the way to victory is via resistance to occupation, and "support for the resistance creates deterrence against aggression."

Assad spoke at a conference of the Syrian Press Association, and his statements were often interrupted with enthusiastic applause.

The event, which was broadcast live on all Arab satellite stations, aimed at capitalizing on Syrian support for Hezbollah. During the speech, a Lebanese woman stood up and praised Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, an act that was accompanied by loud applause and the waving of Hezbollah's yellow flags.

Assad said that the United States' plan for a "new Middle East" has collapsed after what he described as Hezbollah's success in fighting against Israel, and warned Israel to seek peace or risk defeat in the future.

"They should know that they are before a historic crossroads. Either they move toward peace and the return of [Arab] rights, or they move in the direction of continued instability until one generation decides the matter," he said. Assad defended Hezbollah, and criticized a UN cease-fire resolution for holding the Syrian-backed militant group responsible for the violence. "Israel is the one who is responsible," he said. He added that Israel's supporters in Lebanon - an allusion to the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority in Beirut - also bear responsibility.

During the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israeli forces surrounded Beirut within seven days of invading, he said. "After five weeks, it [Israel] was still struggling to gain several hundred meters of ground."

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier canceled a trip to Syria in protest of Assad's vociferous attack and statements, calling the speech a "negative contribution that is not in any way justified in view of the current challenges and opportunities in the Middle East."