Assad Meets German Officials as Syria Renews Demand for Israel to Return Golan Heights
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al Shara on Wednesday demanded that Israel return the Golan Heights, as President Bashar Al Assad met his German counterpart Johannes Rau and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Berlin.
Assad did not speak to reporters, but Fischer said after their talks that an end to confrontational rhetoric would help ease the way to peace, reported AFP.
Germany, he said, felt it was "very important that violence in southern Lebanon should come to an end and of course rhetoric should be changed in the region. I think this also is very important."
The talks between Assad and Fischer focused on the stalemate in the peace process, said Shara, who blamed the situation on the "aggressive attitude of the Israeli government."
Asked about comments by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the annexation by Israel of the Golan Heights should be made irreversible, Shara said: "The Golan Heights should return to Syria sooner or later. This is our response."
Some 200 supporters of Assad and a counter-demonstration of about a dozen people identifying themselves as children of Jewish deportees from France and chanting "shame on Assad for protecting the Nazi criminal Brunner" demonstrated Wednesday outside the hotel where Fischer and Assad met, said AFP.
Alois Brunner is a former Nazi officer who has been an elusive fugitive for years.
The German government said in a communiqué Tuesday that it understood Jewish concern over Assad’s visit, adding that German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had already addressed the concerns when he opened the Israeli embassy in Berlin on May 9.
"The way to peace can only come with respect by both sides for the right to existence and the dignity of the other," Fischer said.
When Pope John Paul was in Damascus in early May, Assad accused the Israelis of "trying to kill religions in the same way (the Jews) betrayed Jesus Christ, in the same way they tried to kill the Prophet Mohammad."
On Tuesday, the mass-circulation German newspaper Bild ran a picture of Assad on its politically oriented second page with the headline: Chancellor, Why Are You Welcoming this Israel-Hater?
On the first day of his visit Tuesday, Assad met German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who said after their talks that the Mitchell Report on the conflict in the Middle East was the "central instrument" towards reaching peace in the region.
Schroeder had insisted on this point when he met Sharon in Berlin last Thursday, highlighting a difference between Israel and its main European ally.
Assad, for his part, did not mention the Mitchell Report, saying instead at a joint press conference with Schroeder that "UN resolutions must be applied," apparently referring to demands for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.
The Mitchell Plan, named after the commission led by former US senator George Mitchell, calls among other things on the Israelis to stop expanding Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.
Assad left Berlin on a plane headed for Damascus late Wednesday after the two-day visit, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said – Albawaba.com