Report: Sharon Prepared to Meet Assad ‘Unconditionally’
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that he would happily meet Syrian President Bashar Assad and attempt to negotiate a peace agreement between Israel and Syria if there were no pre-conditions set for the meeting, according to The Jerusalem Post newspaper.
Sharon was in Washington where he held talks with President George W. Bush.
"I think it's important to carry out contacts with every Arab state, like with the Palestinians," Sharon told Israeli reporters.
"I think that Israel's position is well known, that she has an interest in making peace with all of her neighbors...I would be happy to meet (with Assad) and carry out negotiationsةwithout pre-conditions. Each side will come to the table and lay its positions on the table. The sides will sit, discuss, and make a decision."
According to the paper, Sharon was responding to an unconfirmed report aired Tuesday that quoted Assad as telling an Israeli Channel 2 television report in Paris he is ready to meet with Sharon.
Assad then reportedly added: "We needed a period in which to ready ourselves for peace, and that preparatory period is now over."
Assad was also quoted as telling the foreign affairs committee of the National Assembly in Paris: "All Arab governments are trying to show restraint because a war would be in no one's interest. But what Israel is doing is leading us closer to war."
He also said the Syrian people are "ready for peace."
Assad sought to clear up an alleged "misunderstanding" over remarks he made to Pope John Paul II that have been widely regarded as anti-Semitic.
Assad, on a three-day state visit to France, told lawmakers at the National Assembly that his comments were not aimed at Jews in general but only at Israel.
Assad last month told Pope John Paul II that the Israelis "tried to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and the same way they tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammad."
He charged that the media distorted his comments.
"I was talking about Israelis, not Jews," Assad said. "When I say Israel carries out killings, it's the reality: Israel tortures Palestinians. I didn't speak about Jews."
Israeli-Syrian peace talks, led by former president Bill Clinton, stalled in January 2000 – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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