Assad Holds First Summit Talks in Cairo with Mubarak
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, making his first trip abroad, held summit talks in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak about the troubled Arab-Israeli peace process.
Egyptian government newspapers said their summit will focus not only on restarting Syria's stalled talks with Israel but also the Palestinian-Israeli clashes that erupted in Jerusalem, a holy city for all Muslims, AFP said.
In a telephone conversation Saturday, Mubarak warned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak that Palestinian-Israeli clashes might have "harmful repercussions on the atmosphere surrounding the peace process," Al-Ahram newspaper reported.
Efforts towards holding an Arab summit will also be raised, government newspapers added.
Al-Akhbar daily said the question of restarting the Syrian-Israeli talks, suspended in January, will probably top the summit's agenda.
"The Syrian-Egyptian summit will again demonstrate to Israel and others Egypt's total support for Syria," it added. Mubarak has "repeated several times that Syria could not give up one inch of its territory."
The sticking point is the future of the strategic Golan Heights, which overlook the Sea of Galilee and northeastern Israel and which were captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
Syria demands that Israel return all the captured land, back to the position in force in June 1967 before its seizure, which would give Damascus access to the fresh water Sea of Galilee.
Israel has expressed willingness to return the Golan, but wants to withdraw only to a 1923 border, which would give it the Sea of Galilee in its entirety.
Barak, the Israeli premier, last Wednesday renewed an appeal to Assad to reach a "peace of the brave" with Israel.
The government newspaper Al-Gomhoriya added that the two leaders will also discuss the "future of Jerusalem, the holy city embroiled in clashes in which dozens of Palestinian victims fell" Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The death toll over the past three days has reached the 30 mark, with more than 700 wounded, while the army said at least 15 soldiers have been injured.
The clashes erupted after a right-wing Israeli delegation on Thursday visited the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, whose status is the main stumbling block in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and a key issue for all Muslims.
Gomhoriya said the Syrian-Egyptian summit comes "at a very important time, when the peace process suffers from serious problems and faces Israeli obstacles and intransigence."
This will be Assad’s first foreign trip since he was inaugurated on the 17th of July.
Since coming to power, Bashar Assad has been tackling domestic issues — corruption and Syria's weak economy — amid concerns over the transition after the June 10 death of his father, who was a dominant figure in the Middle East for 30 years, Reuters reported.
In regard to political issues particularly the Golan heights, Assad has made it clear he intends to follow his father’s steps in any negotiations with Israel. This was evident in his inauguration speech when he said “We have the urge to reach a state of peace, but we have no urge to compromise an inch of our territory'' Albawaba.Com
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