Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said in Paris on Tuesday that Israel's proposed withdrawal from south Lebanon was “a way to trick the Arab states” but Syria will not fall into the trap.
But Shara was also quoted as saying his country “would be pleased to see Israel withdraw completely from Lebanon” according to long-standing United Nations resolutions.
Shara spoke during an hour and a half meeting with President Jacques Chirac and an equally long meeting with Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine.
Israel has announced plans to withdraw from Lebanon, where it controls a buffer strip north of its own border, even though its peace negotiations with neighboring Syria over the occupied Golan Heights are stalled.
Lebanese Resistance groups fighting the Israeli occupation and the government in Beirut have refused to guarantee a peaceful border unless the withdrawal is part of a broader settlement.
Chirac's spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said Shara delivered a verbal message from Syrian President Hafez al-Assad saying Syria viewed Israel's intended withdrawal with favor, if fully carried out.
“We feel there is a positive point in Syria assuring President Chirac that Syria seeks peace with Israel...,” Colonna said, adding that the French leader hoped there could be a global regional settlement and encouraged Syria to seek one in spite of difficulties.
Chirac said France hoped Israel's withdrawal would come as a result of an accord but that the international community should be prepared for the move to take place without one.
“The complete and open application of a United Nations resolution (calling for Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon) must be approved, not criticized,” she said.
“In this new and delicate situation, France hopes everyone will do everything possible to secure peace and stability in the region,” she added.
There was no indication if the talks broached the subject Syria's heavy armed presence in Lebanon.
Earlier, the Syrian FM met with his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine but no details of that meeting were made public – (Agencies)
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