Peace talks: Syria's President calls upon France to intervene whilst rejecting direct talks with Israel

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bashar al-Assad
Image: Shihab20.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has rejected moves by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate, saying that he had no "Israeli partner" and not being serious about peace. Ahead of talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy last Friday in Paris, he called upon France to be more involved in the Middle East peace process, after expressing disappointment with Barack Obama's performance and lack of action plan; in an interview with Le Figaro he called the United States the "weak link".

Al-Assad said that he would not negotiate directly with Israel, but is willing to have discussions in Turkey. "If Mr Netanyahu is serious, he can send a team of experts, and we'll send a team of experts to Turkey. Then we can really talk, if they're interested," he said. "Today, Syria wants peace. There is a mediator, Turkey, which is ready to resume its mediation. There is also French and European support for this process. What we lack is an Israeli partner who is ready to go forward and ready to come to a result."

According to the BBC, France has been the major contributor in attempting to bring Syria back to diplomatic talks. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner will attempt to stimulate talks in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians in the coming days. Before talks with President Sarkozy, al-Assad had said "France must act".

Since Israel's creation in 1948, Syria has been in a state of war with the country, having at no point recognized the existence of the state of Israel. (See List of No Recognition of Israel) The major issues of conflict between the countries at present time concern Israel's possession of the Golan Heights region, annexed in 1981, and Syria's support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

The last direct talks between the two states collapsed in 2000.