Damascus, Asharq Al-Awsat- Syrian Foreign Minister has stated that setting a date for the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ visit to Damascus “will be made later through the diplomatic channels.” His comment was made after he reiterated that his country welcomes the visit and said “there is no Syrian-Saudi reconciliation” but “good relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia.
There is an exchange of visits at the highest levels between the two countries” and pointed out that the “last visit was by Prince Abdulaziz Bin-Abdullah and Information Minister Abdulaziz Khoja” before stressing that the date for the visit “will be made later through the diplomatic channels.” The Syrian minister made these remarks at a joint press conference held yesterday morning with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner.
A high-level French source called yesterday’s meeting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Kouchner at the People’s Palace “comfortable” and the Syrian president “was open and direct” in discussing the issues that were raised, which were Iraq, Lebanon, the situation in Iran, the peace issue in the region, and bilateral relations. The source told Asharq al-Awsat that President Al-Assad informed Kouchner that “he does not see anymore any obstacles preventing the development of Syrian-Lebanese relations” since Syria is talking to all the Lebanese parties. More importantly, Al-Assad told Kouchner that “Syria has no prior demands in the matter of forming the Lebanese government.” In this context, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said at the joint press conference that Damascus and Paris “are pleased” with the ongoing dialogue in Lebanon between the various parties to form a national accord government. The French foreign minister underlined this again in Damascus when he talked about a “new psychology” prevailing among the Lebanese and the decline of the regional factors in favor of the internal political game.
Regarding the Syrian position at present at the international level, the French source pointed out that Syria “was saying two months ago that it would work with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and is doing this now and is at the same time talking to Saudi Arabia, dealing with all the Lebanese parties, and inviting President Barack Obama to visit Damascus. Hence it is in a comfortable position and a better one cannot be envisaged at present.”
In the same context, the French source reported that President Al-Assad “did not link the anticipated Syrian-Saudi summit to any other factor, including the formation of the Lebanese government.” The French foreign minister called his visit to Damascus at the end of his meetings “very positive” and came exactly one year after the normalization of bilateral relations which was demonstrated at the Elysee summit between Sarkozy and Al-Assad. French sources said this relationship was at one time “tripartite” in that it was contingent on developments in the Lebanese dossier but now has become really “bilateral” and deals with all the political, cultural, economic, and commercial cooperation issues.
In the Iranian context, Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the French minister asked for Syria’s help to secure the release of French academic Clotilde Reiss who was detained in Iran early this month. It was learned that Kouchner contacted his Iranian counterpart Manuchehr Mottaki to ask for his help in releasing her and thanked him for his intervention to allow the French ambassador in Tehran to visit her in her jail. It was also learned that five charges have been made against the French academic.