Assad to Arab MKs: Syria Ready for Peace, but Israel Unwilling

Syrian president tells three Israeli Arab MKs visiting Damascus he is ready to support Arab League's peace plan.

Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday told three Israeli Arab MKs visiting Damascus that Syria is ready to establish peace with Israel based on the Arab League's 2002 plan, saying it was Israel who was not willing to accept the initiative.

Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka, Azmi Bishara, and Wassel Taha met with Assad Tuesday night for nearly two hours to discuss the peace process, developments in the Palestinian government and the war with Lebanon.

Speaking to Haaretz from the presidential palace in Damascus, Zahalka said that Assad was firmly opposed to any attempt to change the clauses in the Arab League's plan and urged Israel to accept it according to its exact wording when it was drafted.

The Arab League's plan calls on Israel to retreat to 1967 borders and for a multi-lateral agreement on a solution for the refugee plan. In return, all Arab countries would be required to recognize Israel and maintain diplomatic ties with it.

During the meeting, Assad reaffirmed his opposition to the deployment of international forces along the border between Syria and Lebanon, but expressed a willingness to accept what he defined as "help" from the Europeans in inspecting the border.

Zahalka said Assad reacted positively to the establishment of a Palestinian unity government. He also said that a number of Palestinian officials are scheduled to visit Damascus in coming days in order to update the Syrian leadership on recent developments.

The three MKs left the presidential palace shortly after an attempted car bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Damascus.

Interior Minister Roni Bar-On earlier this week called on Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to recall the passports of the three Arabs lawmakers, who visited Syria without seeking permission from the government.

At Bar-On's request, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered a criminal investigation be opened against Balad MKs Azmi Bashara, Jamal Zahalka and Wassel Taha over their recent visit to Syria.