|07DAMASCUS266||2007-03-14 12:21:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Damascus|
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UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000266
1. Summary: Papers on Mar. 14 reported that President Asad
received a telephone call on Mar. 13 from Italian Prime Minister
Romano Prodi. They discussed the visit of the European Union's High
Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana
to Damascus and the recent conference held in Baghdad. They agreed
to continue consultations between Syria and Italy.
On Syrian-Egyptian relations, papers reported President Asad's
message to President Mubarak conveyed by Vice President Shara on
Mar. 13, regarding the situation in the region and coordination
between the two countries prior to the forthcoming Arab Summit. In
a statement to reporters following the meeting, Shara expressed
great satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting, saying that
Syria is doing its best to restore Arab solidarity because "the next
stage is very dangerous and we should be ready to face challenges."
Regarding reports on the possibility of modifying the 2002 Arab
peace initiative, Mr. Shara said "the Arab initiative is all of one
piece and can't be modified.... The demands for modifications come
from the Israeli side because the Arab peace initiative is not
admired by Israel, particularly on the issues of refugees and
borders." Asked about the recent conference in Baghdad and whether
it restored warmth to Syrian-US relations, the Vice President said
that "warmth in relations needs a deep and long dialogue in a way
that removes mutual suspicions." Answering a question on the
possibility of a swap between Damascus and Washington on regional
issues following the Baghdad Conference, Mr. Shara underlined that
"Syria won't swap; dialogue is always give and take."
Independent al-Watan featured an article published in the Guardian
on March 13 by Syrian ??Ambassador to London Sami Khiyami, saying
that US policies in Iraq are "fuelling the disintegration" of the
country. Khiyami encouraged the US to foster, instead, a "climate
of understanding" between Arab states and western countries. In his
article, Khiyami accused the US of implementing a policy "to
encourage sectarianism, ethnic divides, regional xenophobia, and the
eventual Balkanization of the Middle East." He went on to say,
however, that the one-day Baghdad conference "could be a prelude to
more fruitful negotiations." "The US must help create a climate of
understanding between the west and Arabs. "A stable, secular and
prosperous Middle East is the best way to undermine terrorism," the
Syrian ambassador wrote. Khiyami called on what he said were the
"nations ruling the world" to be "wiser, fairer and more determined
than in the past to find a solution both to the Iraqi conflict and
the Arab-Israeli conflict."
All papers featured a statement by Chairman of Hamas Politburo
Khalid Mashaal, in a press conference held in Sana'a on Mar. 12,
that the formation of the Palestinian national unity government will
be announced this week, calling on the Arab and Islamic worlds to
exert efforts to lift the siege on Palestinians. Mashaal hailed the
Mecca Accord between Hamas and Fateh and held the Israeli government
responsible for hindering the process of swapping the Israeli
prisoner for Palestinian prisoners.
End of summary.
2. Selected Headlines:
"President Asad receives a telephone call from Italian Prime
Minister Romano Prodi on the visit of the EU High Representative for
Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, to Damascus and
on the Baghdad Conference" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/14)
"A message from President Asad to President Mubarak conveyed by VP
Shara. Shara: Our working paper at the summit aims at reforming
the Arab situation.... The Arab peace initiative is indivisible....
We reject politicization of the International Tribunal"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 3/14)
"Mashaal: The Mecca Accord has confused Israel. Israeli endeavors
to provoke Europe" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/14)
"Al-Maliki is in al-Anbar for the first time, supporting tribes and
pledging to fight al-Qaeda" (Independent Al-Watan, 3/14)
"Having no proof of arms smuggling through the Syrian-Lebanese
border, Paris calls on Damascus to make use of the chance of
dialogue with Europe" (Independent al-Watan, 3/14)
"Iran is ready to offer guarantees if its file is withdrawn from the
Security Council. The permanent UNSC member states propose a new
draft resolution to tighten sanctions against Iran"
(Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/14)
3. Editorial Block Quotes:
Omar Jaftali, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen, wrote
(3/14): "It is not the first time that Israel has claimed interest
in peace in the form of ambiguous statements coupled with
international suggestions, to absorb the anger of peoples of the
region on terrorist Israeli practices and biased US policy towards
"The most recent Israeli claim is that Tel Aviv is discussing with
Washington the Arab peace initiative proposed in Beirut in 2002,
saying that Israel believes that modification of this initiative
will change the political atmosphere prior to the Riyadh summit.
Such modification, according to Israeli FM Livni, means reversing
the Arab peace initiative by giving precedence to normalization
prior to making peace. This means placing the cart before the
"Israel rejected the Arab peace initiative immediately upon its
announcement. Later it rejected the Roadmap. It rejects any
Palestinian right to sovereignty and does not respect international
resolutions. Any Israeli talk about positive aspects in the Arab
peace initiative is merely hidden deception to abort the best Arab
proposal to serve peace and end tension in the region.... AL SecGen
Amr Mousa said that the Arab peace initiative in unchangeable. It
is supposed to be a unified Arab strategic position so as not to
dissipate more Arab rights."
"Prize of Courage"
An unsigned editorial in government-owned Al-Thawra, said (3/14):
"It is not enough that Israel rejects dialogue, but it also wants
others not to embark on such dialogue. Israeli FM Livni objected to
Solana's visit to Syria, considering it a prize that Syria gets
without changing its policy....
"Actually, Syria did not change its policies, simply because it has
been proven that those policies are correct and do not need any
change. Others must make the demanded changes because they are
"It has become crystal clear that Syria couldn't be isolated. The
reward which Syria has won is a recognition of its role, but it
doesn't feel satisfied with that....
"Syria wants the return of the Golan Heights and an end to Israeli
occupation of occupied Arab territories.... Syria is fully
confident that the real rewards are coming...."
"The Decisive Step"
Ghazi al-Dada, a commentator in government-owned Tishreen, wrote
(3/14): "If the Baghdad conference was a step in the right
direction, the decisive step is the removal of the occupation
through the withdrawal of all foreign forces on a specific
"As the conferees in Baghdad were discussing ways and possibilities
for a solution, the answer came from President Bush in his
announcement that 4,400 additional American troops will be sent to
Iraq.... This shows entrenchment of the military option unaffected
by any political choices....
"The United States is fueling the sectarian violence in Iraq because
it wants to keep the justifications for its stay in Iraq until it
accomplishes the mission of rearranging the country in a way that
serves its own interests, which necessarily converge with Israel's