Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Chirac sides with Syria on "Greater Middle East"

Does Chirac dislike Bashar? A few weeks ago a number of Lebanese Journalists speculated that France was ready to punish Syria and take the lead in a joint Franco-US initiative to pressure Syria over Lebanon. Lebanese optimism was sparked by Chirac's meeting with Bush in Paris, when Chirac's announced his support for complete Lebanese independence.

The recent NATO meeting in Istanbul dispelled the notion that France is in an anti-Syrian mood. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Bush and Chirac disagreed over economic assistance for Syria.

Overall, the summit fell far short of what was being talked about on both sides of the Atlantic four months ago. A joint "Greater Middle East" initiative also was stripped down, with the allies unable to agree even on which countries should be involved in an economic and political outreach program of the U.S. and EU. As a result, the statement announcing the initiative didn't name any countries. France had wanted Syria and Iran included, for example, but the U.S. didn't.
In other news
Barak denied that he had missed an opportunity to make a Golan deal.
Barak, who addressed a conference at Netanya College, said, “Clinton’s claims that while in Sheppardstown, Syria was willing at one stage to set the new borderline 50 meters east of the Kineret (See of Galilee), are untrue [prior to 1967, Syria controlled the northeastern edge of the lake]”.

According to Barak, “Every time I asked the administration if Syria adopted that position, the answer was crystal clear – it did not”.

“Israeli prime ministers, including myself and my predecessor [Netanyahu], were willing to make painful concessions: To return the Golan to Syria, or almost the entire area in Netanyahu’s case, only in return for a solution that would guarantee Israel’s vital interests regarding security, advance warning stations, water and Lebanon”, Barak added.
Human Rights in Syria have deteriorated in the last four years according to the Syrian Committee for Human Rights, a group of Syrian dissidents based in London.
Human rights in Syria are deteriorating under arbitrary arrests, a crackdown on minority Kurds and systematic torture, according to a London-based rights group's scathing annual report released Sunday.

In the four years of Bashar Assad's presidency, the Syrian government has "failed to take an earnest step toward the long-awaited pledge to implement reforms," said the report of the Syrian Committee for Human Rights, a group of Syrian dissidents based in London.


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