Syrian - Dutch relations highlighted
Syria-Netherlands, Politics, 8/27/1999
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa on Thursday received Dutch Foreign Minister Jozias van Aartsen. Talks dealt with conditions in the region, developments of the Middle East peace process and bilateral relations between Syria and Holland.
In the evening al-Sharaa and van Aartsen held a press conference which was attended by Arab and foreign press agencies, television networks accredited in Damascus and the media delegation accompanying the Dutch foreign minister.
Al-Sharaa said, "We have held talks that covered several topics, especially the peace process." He added that results of talks were positive and that the discussions were held in a friendly atmosphere. "I think the Dutch side has become more acquainted with the Syrian stand towards the Middle East peace process and resuming it from the point they broke off," al-Sharaa said.
He added, "We have agreed to continue contacts and visits and that the peace process and the results it will conclude in the future are of concern to Europe," and therefore, "I am confident that the Dutch side will continue contacts with us in the framework of the European Union because all of us are interested in bolstering Syrian - European relations."
Van Aartsen said, "As Mr. al-Sharaa said, we have held lengthy talks about the peace process in this historical moment. And I have conveyed to Mr. al-Sharaa my impressions in that the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, is serious and determined to make peace with Syria in the near future. I think it is necessary to have negotiations not only on the Palestinian track but also on the Syrian track." He added that just and comprehensive peace should be attained in the region and indicated possibilities of achieving a progress on the Syrian track in the near future if negotiations can be resumed from the point they halted at in 1996.
The Dutch FM added that he discussed with al-Sharaa the desire of the Dutch airline, KLM, to make daily flights to Damascus and asked al-Sharaa to give "us his recommendations to accelerate talks in this regard."
He added that he had extended an invitation for al-Sharaa to visit Holland in the near future.
Replying to a question to van Aartsen on whether he has reached a conviction following his talks with al-Sharaa and Barak that talks between Syria and Israel will be resumed shortly, he said, "I think that Syria and Israel can decide on this matter, but according to my own conviction I think negotiations will be resumed very soon."
Al-Sharaa was asked that as there were lot of talks about Israeli messages to Syria, are there really messages, if any what is the content. Al-Sharaa said, "Actually, there are several statements by the Israeli officials, in which they say that they send messages to Syria through several political figures. We in Syria believe that we are in need of one message in which Israel says it is committed to what had been reached under the government of Rabin and then Peres and to abide by this obligation which is kept with the US, so as to resume the Middle East peace process. Only in this case Israel does not make several messages. It is enough for us to have such a message and then we can resume talks tomorrow."
Al-Sharaa was asked if the Norway's foreign minister, during his visit to Damascus, said he had the impressions that Barak will be abide by this obligation and a similar question was addressed to the Dutch FM if he had a similar impression about Barak. Al-Sharaa said, "These are mere impressions by the ministers who visit Israel and then visit Damascus. I cannot say that anyone had informed us clear obligations in this regard. We often heard a lot from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the media or through political figures visiting him that he is interested in making peace, especially with Syria, and that he is determined not to lose this chance. We would like to believe these impressions and we also like to believe the statements. But the heart of the matter does not relate to just believing. What we want to have a serious and practical thing crystallized from which the two sides understand that the peace process will be restored to its rightful track and that talks will be resumed from the point at which they broke off."
Replying to the same question, the Dutch foreign minister said, "From my own point of view, the Israeli government, as I have told Mr. al-Sharaa -- and I stress that the impressions I hold are built on the meetings with Barak and the Israeli officials -- is that they want to resume peace negotiations from they point where they stopped in 1996 but on how these negotiations are resumed can be decided by Syria and Israel."
The two foreign ministers were asked whether the Israel prime minister is determined to achieve peace with Syria and whether Barak will be serious about abiding by peace requirements in maintaining a withdrawal until June 4, 1967 border line.
Al-Sharaa said: "This is, indeed, a good question and expresses the condition of the pace process. There are obligations that should be met and if every Israeli government does not implement what had been guaranteed by a previous government, that means peace will not be attained may be for long decades of time."
Al-Sharaa added, "We know that when Barak assumed power he made his main emblem that he will proceed on the steps of Rabin, and Rabin had left behind him an obligation. That means that Barak has left an impression, or rather a conviction, that he will adopt this very obligation already adopted by Rabin. Therefore, Syria has welcomed Barak's coming to power on this ground. Now we still believe, despite the very many disappointments, that there is still a chance in that the Israeli prime minister will reconsider his current polices and announce his commitment of what he had pledged before."
Al-Sharaa was asked whether Syria had received any pledge from the US on resuming negotiations or to work for resuming negotiations according to the document kept by the US or such a pledge came only through the media. Al-Sharaa said, "However, the document is with the US and that Washington did not deny this existence of this document." He added, "In its capacity as a main co-sponsor for the Middle East peace process and also a mediator, at least during the past phase we already talked about during which we got the document, the US will be eventually happy that this document will be honored because according to it the US will be viewed as a country which honors the document or documents kept with her."
Earlier in the day, the Dutch foreign minister arrived in Damascus and left Damascus on the same day following a short visit to Syria.
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