MADRID – The European Union and Latin America can play a key role in resolving the Middle East conflict, Syrian President Bashar Assad said here Monday at a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
Both Europe and Latin America “can play that role” of intermediary between the Palestinians and Israelis, Assad said on the last stop of an international tour that also has taken him to Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil.
Both regions, along with the United States, can help to “relaunch this dialogue” and thus prevent, Assad said, the return to the situation of 19 years ago, when the Peace Conference took place in Madrid and the opening of a Middle East negotiation process was attempted with international sponsorship.
Currently, warned Assad, “the possibilities for peace are limited and the possibilities for war are greater.”
The lengthy tour through Latin America and finally to Spain has allowed Assad to hear from the Spanish, Brazilian and Argentine authorities of their interest in increasing ties with Damascus and simultaneously cooperating in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
As Assad said in his appearance before reporters with Zapatero, it seems that it will be difficult for Turkey to continue playing that mediating role after nine of its citizens were killed by Israeli commandos during an assault on a humanitarian aid flotilla that was approaching Gaza in May.
Such an adverse situation, however, could facilitate greater activity by international actors, like the EU or Latin America, as Assad mentioned on Monday.
The Monday meeting between Assad and Zapatero enabled the Spanish premier to announce a mission by the EU to Gaza before July is out to verify on the ground Israeli compliance with the progressive lifting of the blockade on that Palestinian territory.
This was one of the almost immediate consequences of the incident involving the Gaza flotilla, in the face of the avalanche of international condemnation that Israeli received.
The mission will be made up of the foreign ministers of Spain, Miguel Angel Moratinos; France, Bernard Kouchner; and Italy, Franco Frattini.
Zapatero emphasized the “exacting” attitude of commitment by the EU and Spain to Israel, and he reiterated the priority his government places on the consolidation of the dialogue process between the Palestinians and Israelis.
In any case, he committed Spain’s support to “going even farther,” if need be, in the dialogue with Syria.
The acrimonious relations between Tel Aviv and Damascus have been predicated since 1967 on the Israeli occupation of the strategic Golan Heights in the Six Day War.
Assad noted the opportunity that the upcoming Union for the Mediterranean Summit, set for November in Barcelona, could provide and he said that that forum could allow the relaunching of peace talks in the Middle East. EFE