US committed to West Asia peace

Envoy says comprehensive settlement plan can secure normalcy in the region

US committed to West Asia peace


Following a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, George Mitchell stated that discussions had been “very candid and positive.”

He said they had dealt with “the prospects for moving forward on our goal of comprehensive peace in the region and improved bilateral relations between Syria and the US.

“I told President Assad that President Obama was determined to facilitate a truly comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. That means peace between Palestinians and Israelis, between Syria and Israel, and between Lebanon and Israel,” he said. This would, he predicted, ultimately, secure full normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab countries in line with the Arab peace plan of 2002, so far rejected by Israel. 

The Syrian news agency also quoted Mitchell as telling Assad that the US supports “the Arab right to recover occupied lands through achieving a just and comprehensive peace.”
As their price for peace, Syria, the Palestinians and Lebanon demand full Israeli withdrawal from the lands it occupied in 1967.

Near-term goal

Mitchell said Washington’s “near-term goal is the resumption of negotiations” between Syria and Israel, broken off by Damascus in last December when Israel attacked Gaza. However, the Israeli government under right-winger Binyamin Netanyahu is not eager to resume negotiations, brokered by Turkey through 2008, and rejects any return of occupied land to Syria. 

“If we are to succeed in securing comprehensive peace, we will need Arabs and Israelis alike to work with us,” Mitchell observed pointedly, ahead of his flight to Israel where he was slated to meet Israeli leaders.

This was Mitchell’s second visit to Syria since taking up his post. Other high-profile US diplomatic and military envoys have also taken the road to Damascus which is seen as a major player on the regional scene because of its influence with the Palestinian Hamas movement and the Lebanese Hizbollah organisation as well as close ties to Tehran. 
Mitchell’s two trips to Damascus demonstrate that the Obama administration has made a clear break with the Bush administration which boycotted Syria as an adjunct of the “axis of evil” grouping Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

This concept has been rejected by Obama who seeks dialogue rather than confrontation with adversaries.

“In terms of the Syrian-American relationship, the US is committed to a dialogue based on mutual interest and mutual respect and a solid foundation for discussion of our shared goals and of real differences, where they occur,” Mitchell stated.

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