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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Thaw in European relations with Syria?

The Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai government is concerned over an apparent thaw in relations between the Europeans and Syria which has happened since Israel and Syria announced that they were 'negotiating' over Israel's surrender of the Golan Heights to Syrian control. The Europeans are moving too fast even for this failed government.
In recent years Syria had suffered international isolation due to suspicions that the regime of President Bashar Assad was behind the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and the uprising in Iraq. However, senior European figures recently resumed contacts with Syria, and Thursday French President Nicolas Sarkozy telephoned Bashar Assad, even though France had been, along with the United States, among the major players leading the isolation of Damascus.

Five days ago, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos visited the Syrian capital, after a year of not visiting Damascus.

Last week, Israel's ambassadors in key European capitals received a classified telegram pointing out that the recent contacts by leading European figures are the first signs of the breakdown of Syria's isolation.

Haaretz received a copy of the content of the telegram, which was authored by the deputy head of the Western Europe division at the Foreign Ministry, Rafi Barak. The note also included instructions for diplomatic activities in those capitals.

"It must be explained to the Europeans that the negotiations have still not begun and therefore they must be careful and measured in contacts vis a vis the Syrians," the note read.

Barak added in the note that the Israeli diplomats should ask the Europeans to treat Syrian requests carefully, "until we can tell if they are serious [in their intentions]." "The Europeans need to be reminded that Syria continues to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad and is not disengaging from Iran. All these are issues of great concern for Israel, and they are still on the table, unresolved."

Sources at the Prime Minister's Bureau said last night that the content of the cable was not coordinated with them.

Foreign Ministry officials had expressed concerns that international pressure on Syria would be on the wane following the announced resumption of indirect talks between Israel and Syria and the backing Syria gave to the Doha agreement, which brought an end, two weeks ago, to the political crisis in Lebanon.

Even before Sarkozy telephoned Assad, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem met with the French president and delivered a message from Assad that "Syria is interested that France will contribute to Israeli-Syrian negotiations."

Details of the telephone conversation between Sarkozy and Assad, received by Haaretz, suggest that the French president expressed his satisfaction with Syria's role in bringing the crisis in Lebanon to an end and said he expected Damascus to contribute to its implementation.

Sarkozy also expressed his support for the talks between Syria and Israel and said that "France recognizes the legitimate rights of Syria on the Golan Heights."
Moratinos meeting with Assad is no great surprise - he's anti-Israel slime anyway. But France under Sarkozy is not supposed to be like France under Chirac and for Sarkozy to be telling the Syrians that France "recognizes the legitimate rights of Syria on the Golan Heights" is slightly surprising and ought to give some indication of the limitations of our 'improved relations' with France.

But then, our government has brought this upon us with their waking the sleeping Syrian dog in the first place and then their doing so publicly in the hope that it would improve Olmert's political situation. Once again, the public interest is being sacrificed to keep the slimy Olmert in power.


At 6:40 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

As usual, Ehud Olmert's right hand doesn't know what his left hand is doing and he's surprised by what's he stirred up. I don't approve of the Europeans hobnobbing with Syria but Israel's government just made it kosher for the most brazen of reasons.


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