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Syria: Close to Israel, Far from Saudi Arabia - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem does not see any problem in achieving peace with Israel since he announced that Syria is ready when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is ready. Muallem repeated Damascus’ request for the required rapprochement with the United States based on the consideration that the peace process with Israel requires American sponsorship. Yet at the same time, the Syrian foreign minister sees that rapprochement between Syria and Saudi Arabia requires efforts to be exerted by both sides!

Is it conceivable that restoring normal relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia would be more difficult than achieving peace between Syria and Israel? That is unbelievable! Saudi Arabia does not occupy any Syrian territory just as it has never sought to destabilize the Syrian regime. Saudi Arabia does not tamper with Syria’s security and does not facilitate any security threats to meddle with the security of that country.

Rather, on the contrary, Riyadh, and specifically King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, was the one that defended Syria in some of the most difficult political situations both before and after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In fact it was the Saudis who strove to save face for Damascus after the International Tribunal to try suspects of the Hariri assassination began to take form.

Walid al Muallem said “Syria and Saudi Arabia can both play an important role in serving Arab issues and regional security and stability and in confronting the dangers that surround the region”; the question is how?

Is it Saudi Arabia that wants dominate and occupy Lebanon? According to reality, Saudi Arabia seeks to consolidate Lebanese institutions in contrast to what Syria wants.

It was Saudi Arabia that wanted to unify the Palestinian ranks and it did not support one party at the expense of another unlike Damascus.

It was Riyadh that wanted good neighborly ties to be established between Iran and other countries in the region without exploiting sectarianism or intervening in the affairs of others whilst Damascus went too far in its alliance with Tehran, to the extent that one would think that Iran borders Syria, or Lebanon, in spite of everything that the Mullah regime has done in the region.

Damascus, and its allies that are now concerned about Syrian-Israeli negotiations, had previously criticized Saudi Arabia for its moderation. At that time, we were told, “Leave us to get on with our adventures and you enjoy your moderation.” Today, we see that it is Riyadh that has become a resistant state whilst Syria, as well as Hezbollah and Hamas, is negotiating with Israel, and Iran has stayed quiet because of the United States.

A few days ago the Syrian Foreign Minister expressed regret that his country does not own a nuclear weapon like Israel. What the foreign minister actually wanted to say was that he is regretful because Israel possesses a power that Syria does not have.

Well, if Syria has not engaged in war in almost thirty years, has not built a thing and has not been able to surpass Israel economically, militarily or scientifically, then what has it accomplished for the Syrians and the region?

Nobody wants to make an enemy out of Syria and it would not be wise to do so; that is my belief. However what is baffling is how Syria can leave a vast playing field, where it can do a lot, and squeeze itself into a tight corner. Imagine a moderate Syria that calls for regional stability; we would be on the threshold of a new history in the region. This is where the danger and importance of Syria lies.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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