Assad's Legal Adviser: Syria's Ties in Region Subject to Negotiation

Syria's representative at the Madrid Plus 15 conference said on Friday that Syria's ties with Iran or any party in the region, like Iraq and Hamas, are subject to negotiation.

However, Riad Daoudi, President Bashar Assad's legal adviser, rejected Israel's preconditions for resuming negotiations, including severing ties with any parties in the region. He said Israel's position raises doubts about its interest in peace with Syria and ending the Middle East conflict.

Former Lebanese parliament member Roger Edde said that he told Doha-based Al Jazeera television, after he was asked about the fate of the two Israel soldiers, that according to his knowledge 'at least one of the soldiers was not dead.'

Daoudi listed the negotiations between Israel and Syria from the Madrid Conference at the end of 1991 to the meeting between U.S. President Bill Clinton and President Hafez Assad in spring 2000. He said that during the entire period Israel persistently avoided signing a peace agreement based on peace for a retreat to the borders of June 4, 1967.

He said Clinton had told former Syrian foreign minister Farouk Shara that had he known then prime minister Ehud Barak would behave as he did in the negotiations in Shepherdstown at the end of 1999, he would not have asked Assad to send his foreign minister to the talks.

During the entire conference tension prevailed between the Syrian and Lebanese delegation, headed by former Lebanese president Amin Gemayel. Former Lebanese parliament member Roger Edde warned the Syrians in his speech that Lebanon would get back at Syria if Damascus continued to harm it.

Javier Solana, the European Union's coordinator for foreign and defense policy, said that unless the peace process in the Middle East is resumed during the next six months, he doubted whether it would be possible to do so before 2008.

Most speakers, including Israeli delegates Shlomo Ben-Ami, Ophir Pines, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof and Moshe Shahal, supported the Saudi initiative and the Arab League's Beirut decision of 2002.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Colette Avital suggested to Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa a meeting between a Labor party delegation and Arab League leaders to turn the league's decision into a basis for a peace agreement between Israel and the league's 22 members.

The delegates called for an international peace conference that would lead to the resumption of peace talks and prevent an escalation in the Middle East.