Syria ready for dialogue with US without conditions: Assad
Syria is ready for dialogue without conditions with the Obama administration, President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview aired.
Syria is ready for dialogue without conditions with the Obama administration, President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview aired on Monday.
Assad told Lebanon's al-Manar TV that the inauguration of President Barack Obama raised cautious hopes that a peace settlement could be reached in the Middle East and reduced the likelihood of a new war in the region.
But he said indirect peace talks with Israel would remain frozen for now and reiterated his demand for a full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights in any bilateral peace deal.
"If there are conditions, then there will be no dialogue (with the United States). They know that," Assad said in the interview with al-Manar, mouthpiece of the Shi-ite political party and armed group Hezbollah.
He said he was encouraged by early signals from the new administration on Iraq and the Arab-Israeli crisis. "We have positive signs but we have learned to be cautious and not to count on such signs as long as there is nothing tangible."
Assad told al-Manar that officials close to the Obama administration had been sent to Damascus in the weeks before the president's inauguration as a prelude to dialogue.
Bilateral ties worsened sharply under President George W. Bush, and Washington pulled out its ambassador nearly four years ago over alleged Syrian interference in Lebanon and Iraq.
Asked whether the region was now heading for peace or war, Assad said: "We see hope of settlements and not wars after the departure of the administration that adopted pre-emptive war as a policy ... Now there is an administration that rejects this principle."
Assad said there were no prospects for an immediate resumption of indirect talks with Israel, suspended after Israel launched a major offensive in the Gaza Strip last month.
He said a complete withdrawal from the Golan, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, was a precondition for any peace agreement. "We will never abandon this," he said.
Reuters Last Mod: 27 Ocak 2009, 14:37