French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called in Damascus and Beirut on Sunday for an easing of tensions between Israel and its neighbours, telling all sides to respect a 2006 ceasefire in Lebanon. "We cannot be resigned to a constant state of tension, even if it is decreasing," Kouchner said, according to AFP, after a meeting in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Kouchner also voiced France's concern over Hizbullah's weaponry, to which Assad gave assurances it was not in the interests of Damascus, Tehran or the Shiite group to trigger a new conflict.
On his part, Assad accused the West of overlooking Israeli violations in the region. "The region has changed and the West's policy in the area is no longer acceptable, keeping silent over Israeli violations is no longer acceptable," Syria's official news agency SANA quoted the Syrian leader as saying. "If the West wants security and stability to be established in the Middle East, they (Western countries) must start to play an effective role to contain Israel and put an end to its extremist policies," Assad said.
He also told Kouchner that countries pushing for UN sanctions against Iran should change their stance, because Tehran's nuclear programme was aimed at civilian pursuits, SANA reported.
"The countries concerned should modify their approach concerning Iran's civilian nuclear programme," he said. According to Assad, an accord signed in Tehran last week after three-way talks with the leaders of Brazil and Turkey was an important step toward a diplomatic solution.