LONDON (AFP) -Syria and Israel can live side-by-side, in peace and harmony, accepting each other’s existence, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said.
He also added Monday that an impartial arbiter was needed to mediate between the two countries, but said that the United States lacked both the will and the vision to fulfill that role.
Answering a question of whether Israel and Syria could live side-by-side in the troubled Middle East at some point in the future, Assad told the BBC: “Yes. The answer is yes.”
Assad also said: “It’s not only the problem between the two parties. You need arbiter, you need impartial arbiter.”
“This is the role of the United States, this is the supportive role of the United Nations, and this is the supportive role of the Europeans,” he told the broadcaster.
But, Assad added that the United States “doesn’t have will to play this role, it doesn’t have the vision towards a peace”.
Assad’s remarks contrast with comments he made in an interview with Kuwait’s Al-Anbaa daily published on Saturday, when he said a war with Israel cannot be ruled out as long as a lasting peace in the Middle East has not been achieved. “In principle, we (always) expect that there will be an Israeli aggression at any time. We all know that Israel is militarily powerful and is backed directly by the United States,” Assad said.
He also said that Syria was “against the occupation” of Iraq.
“The resistance is one of our concepts that we adopt, not against the British or Americans in particular, as a concept against any occupying force,” he said.
Assad added later that that did not mean Syria supported the Iraqi insurgency: “That doesn’t mean you support it with money or with armaments. I’m talking about the political concept … you adopt it as a right.”
He also denied that Syria either let insurgents pass through its borders to Iraq, or that it supported the Islamist militia Hezbollah with arms in its clash with Israel two months ago.
“The resistance in Iraq is Iraqi resistance. It doesn’t come from anywhere outside the border. We don’t allow and we don’t support because … If you allow terrorists to attack somewhere, anywhere in the world it will attack you later.”
Asked whether Syria helped Hezbollah by supplying weapons, Assad told the BBC: “No … We helped them politically.”
Assad went on to deny that Syria had any involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, saying that Hariri’s murder “affected Syria as bad as it affected Lebanon. He supported Syria in many difficult positions and stance.”
A UN investigation commission into Hariri’s assassination is underway, with many pointing the finger at Syria.
The Syrian president said that if any members of his country’s security services were involved in Hariri’s death, they would be punished.
“Whoever proved to be complicit in such atrocity is considered as a traitor, and a traitor, according to our law, should be punished,” Assad said.