Kissinger Confident of Middle East Future

Published June 11th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said on Sunday that although there is likely to be a period of "hiatus" after the death of Syrian president Hafez Assad, the peace process with Israel would continue. 

There will be a pause while the new government establishes itself, he said, "but fundamentally the decision had been made to make an agreement with Israel." 

Assad's son Bashar, 34, is widely expected to assume his father's position and as a western-educated doctor, could prove to be more progressive. 

"In my view, Assad was heading for a peace agreement, probably this year," Kissinger told CNN television.  

The Syrian leader was slow and careful in his steps toward peace, Kissinger said, "but he had gone too far to pull back." 

"I believe significant progress has already been made," he said. "And the personality of the new leader makes it somewhat easier. I'm fairly optimistic." 

Kissinger said the young Assad is likely to be more open to outside ideas than his hard-line father. 

"Assad was a traditional ruler of Syria ... my experience is that Bashar will be driven more toward consensus," Kissinger told CBS television.  

But his clout and political influence remains untested, the former 

diplomat said. 

"Somebody who started his career as an ophthalmologist does not show a strong desire for political power," Kissinger said on CNN. 

Kissinger said the shift of power to a new generation in the Middle East, including in Morocco, Jordan and now Syria, could have "a significant impact" on regional politics. 

"The problem they will have is the same that their fathers did, is how much they can reform the system without blowing it up," he said – (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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