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French Version


Solana urges Assad to work for peace in Lebanon

Eu foreign policy chief pledges support for damascus' goal of regaining golan heights

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged Syria on Wednesday to work for peace and security in Lebanon and said the European bloc supports Damascus' goal of regaining the occupied Golan Heights.

Solana said he told President Bashar Assad to crack down on alleged smuggling of arms across the border into Lebanon and to exert "maximum effort" to help implement a UN resolution requiring the disarmament of militias.

Saying the talks were held in a positive atmosphere, Solana told a news conference the EU believed UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the summer 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, must be applied totally.

"I told the president ... that we would like to see Syria making a maximum effort to help implement Security Council Resolution 1701," he said.

"That is fundamental to reach peace, stability and independence to Lebanon."

Solana's tour of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria comes after France dropped its objections to EU contacts with Damascus, which a UN inquiry has implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Solana described his talks with Assad as "good and frank" and said the opportunity was now for Syria to end its international isolation. But he linked further discussions to Syria making the "proper decisions" to increase regional stability.

"It's time now to focus on facts and to support sayings with deeds," Solana said.

He earlier met Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa.

"During my tour in Beirut, Riyadh and Damascus, I felt an Arab consensus on a number of issues regarding the peace process, Lebanon and Iraq," the official Syrian News Agency quoted Solana as saying at a news conference with Moallem. He said he hoped that "Syria offers support to the initiatives concerning these issues."

A Saudi official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Syria has been trying to mend its ties with the kingdom. But he said Saudi Arabia has preconditions, most of them involving Lebanon.

The EU wants Syria to back the creation of a tribunal to try suspects in the killing.

In response, Moallem said: "We haven't said that we are against the tribunal. There are [Lebanese] differences about its statutes. Anyway we are waiting for the results of the [international] inquiry with which we are collaborating in a total way."

He again denied allegations that Syria is smuggling weapons into Lebanon, SANA quoted him as saying. He renewed Syria's commitment to implement Resolution 1701 stressing the need for UNIFEL forces to "fulfill their duties in South Lebanon in a best manner," SANA reported Moallem as saying.

"I would like to stress that Syria will always stay part of the solution that seeks the security and stability of the region," he said.

In addition to being considered as a key to unlocking the four-month political deadlock in Lebanon, Damascus has also links with players in Iraq.

Damascus has set a price for cooperation, including seeking the support of Washington for its campaign to regain the Golan Heights occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.

At the news conference with Moallem, Solana said the European Union was going to work so that Syria recovered the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel and annexed by the Jewish state in 1981.

"We would like to work as much as possible to see your country, Syria, recuperating the territories that were taken in the year 1967," he said.

On the possibility of an open dialogue with Washington, Moallem said that an international conference which took place in Baghdad on Saturday was a first step. "We hope the Americans see that the solution in Iraq is not military, but it should be political."

"Syria has no provisions to continue dialogue with Washington, but Syria only demands adherence to the rules of dialogue," he said.

On Monday in Lebanon, where he began his mediating, Solana said he hoped his trip to Damascus would help spur an improvement in relations between the EU and Syria, but he added that Syrian policies had to change.

On the Middle East peace process, Solana said that the EU supports Arab peace initiative launched in 2002, expressing hope the initiative will be part of the comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, SANA reported.

Syria through its state-run press welcomed Solana's visit as a good move "after a long absence."

Beirut 15-03-2007
Redaction
The Daily Star



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