President Shimon Peres on Thursday declared that Israel seeks peace and that it poses no threat to Lebanon or Syria, but lamented the fact that Syria keeps arming itself while making claims it is interested in peace with Israel.
Peres, visiting Israel Military Industries factories, was asked about recent remarks made by Syrian President Bashar Assad, who said that Israel wasn't really interested in peace. In response, Peres replied that "Syria is taking simultaneous opposing actions. They talk peace while simultaneously manufacturing a huge store of 70,000 missiles on [Israel's] northern border, aimed at Israel."
The president added that "Israel is not threatening Lebanon, and is not threatening Syria. Our goal is only peace and I regret the fact that since the reign of [former Syrian President Hafez] Assad senior, who declined [Former Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat's invitation to join him at Camp David, Syria has adopted a hesitant policy and is not taking any real steps toward peace with Israel."
On Tuesday, Bashar Assad said that Peres had relayed a message announcing that Israel would relinquish the Golan Heights if Syria were to sever its ties to Iran and to known terror organizations.
According to a report in the Lebanese daily Al Safir, Peres relayed the message via Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was visiting Damascus last week.
Peres' office denied the report and stressed that the content of the message was taken out of context. The president's office explained that the intent of the message was to make clear that Israel did not intend to attack Syria or make any moves that could lead to escalation of tension along Israel's shared border with Syria.