Syria's foreign minister warned on Saturday that a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon would fail to bring about peace if the problem of Palestinian refugees remains unsolved.
"Syria is against tension and for peace but Israel must accept responsibility for any move it makes," Faruq al-Shara said in Cairo following talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
He stressed that Damascus "understands Lebanon's call for a solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees."
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud on Wednesday filed a memorandum with the United Nations questioning the ability of an international force to deal with potential raids on Israel by Palestinian refugees after an Israeli pullout.
Shara said a total Israeli withdrawal from the section of southern Lebanon it has occupied for 22 years, along with a solution to the refugee problem, would leave Syria "satisfied."
But Syria expects "an official, written Israeli position of which we must be informed through the UN secretary general," he said after a second meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mussa.
"Without such a commitment in writing, we can't consider Israel serious," he added.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has vowed to pull troops out by July, even in the absence of a peace deal with Damascus, and suggested that a UN force foreseen under UN Resolution 425 from 1978 would be sufficient to oversee a peaceful withdrawal.
But Shara rejected that idea on Saturday.
"Who can believe that Israel now wants to apply a Security Council resolution when hundreds of UN resolutions have not been implemented over the last 20 years?" he said.
"It is strange that the Jewish state calls on the United Nations to play a role when it has always refused such intervention by the international organization."
Israeli commentators believe Damascus is opposed to a unilateral Israeli withdrawal because it would lose one of its main means of pressure for the return of the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria during the 1967 war.
Shara said later Saturday that during the US-Syrian summit in Geneva March 26, which failed to restart Israeli-Syrian negotiations, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad had "responded clearly" on the issues raised by US President Bill Clinton.
Syrian-Israeli peace talks were broken off January 10th. Their main disagreement is over two square kilometers on the eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee.
Syria demands that Israel pull back to the June 4, 1967 lines, giving it access to the fresh water sea.
But Israel insists it would withdraw to the 1923 international border, which would give it complete control over the Galilee -- CAIRO (AFP – photo by AFP)
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