Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed Israeli demands that his country abandon an alliance with Iran as a requirement for a peace accord. Assad told British parliamentarians that the Baath Party government intended to maintain "normal relations" with Iran while it conducts indirect talks with Israel to retake the occupied Golan Heights, a source familiar with the meeting told Reuters.
"The president said Syria has normal relations with Iran. He made it clear that any suggestion to drop them was not a reasonable request," the source said. "He said if Israel could question Syria's relations with Iran, then Syria could question Israel's ties with other countries, particularly the United States."
The Syrian leader received the British parliamentary delegation headed by MP Richard Spring on Tuesday. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Chairman of the Syrian-British Association Fawaz al-Akhras attended the meeting. The parliamentarians, including former interior minister Charles Clarke, are on a trip to hear Syria's take on the Middle East at first hand.
The official Syrian news agency said Assad underscored to the British delegation need for "comprehensive peace and full restoration of rights."
Assad said progress on the Syrian-Israeli peace track would encourage Lebanon and Israel to initiate their own talks. "The president hinted that it would not be in Lebanon's interest if it did not have its own talks if Syrian-Israeli talks advanced," the source said.