Monday, May 04, 2009

Assad urges US to talk to Hamas, Hizbullah

In interview with French TV, Syrian president says Damascus ready to help broker contacts with terror groups, says isolating them 'counterproductive if Washington wants to seek regional peace'

Israel News

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged the United States on Sunday to reach out to terror groups Hamas and Hizbullah as part of the search for Middle East peace, in an interview with French television. Speaking to France 3, Assad welcomed what he said was a new willingness in Washington to listen to Syria's views since President Barack Obama took office, and said Damascus was ready to help broker contacts with the groups.

The United States regards both Lebanon's Hizbullah and the Palestinian group Hamas as terrorist movements, and does not recognize them, a stance which Assad said was counterproductive if Washington wanted to seek regional peace.

"I think the problem was with the previous administration," Assad said, criticizing former US president George W. Bush and welcoming Obama's decision to send envoys to open a tentative dialogue with Syria.

"I think if you want to solve the problem you can't go about saying: 'This is good and this is bad, this is evil and this is democratic, this is human rights and this is not politics'," he said.

"Politics is when you deal with reality. When you deal with influential parties to influence the position in a positive or a negative way," he said, calling on the United States to talk to both Iran and the terror groups.

"Hamas has influence and you cannot ignore them. You can't achieve peace while Hamas is outside this peace or against the peace," he said, adding that the same was true of Hizbullah.

Assad called for "direct or indirect" talks between Washington and Hamas, and added: "When they want to have help with these parties, any contact direct or indirect with Syria, and maybe direct, we are ready to help."

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she had sent two diplomats to Syria, but Washington remains cautious in its dealings with a government that has close ties to Iran and to hardline armed groups.

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