Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- – Syria has reached a confidential agreement with the UN international investigation into the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri that is “satisfactory and safeguards its honor and sovereignty”, according to foreign minister Walid al Muallim. He refused to elaborate on the contents of the agreement.
In exclusive statement to Asharq al Awsat, al Muallim said, “We will cooperate with the probe team… We have reached a confidential agreement and do not want to reveal any details at this time out of consideration for the investigation and its integrity.”
The minister refused to discuss the details of the talks held with Serge Brammertz, the UN chief investigator. He also declined to comment about the joint Egyptian-Saudi initiative that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mentioned on her visit to Lebanon, adding. “We are grateful for Arab efforts but we have reached an agreement that satisfies all sides.”
On the upcoming Arab summit in Khartoum, the foreign minister said that Syria would have no problems in the meeting, “as we are part of the Arab world and every time the pressure increases on Syria , its position is strengthened.”
He denied his country had agreed to allow the US to build military bases on Syrian territory and use the airport in Aleppo to provide logistical support for its forces in Iraq, as part of a deal to lessen pressure on Syria. He described reports circulating in the media as lies aimed at distorting Syria’s image. “We are not embroiled in anything to [want to] strike deals with anyone. President Bashar Assad deals with clarity and transparency on international issues. Syria will not change its course.”
As for bilateral relations with Lebanon, al Muallim indicated, “our relationship with Lebanon is very special. Embassies will be opened when the relations are normalized and we are waiting for the appropriate time.”
On the disputed Shebaa Farms in South Lebanon, he said, “They are occupied Lebanese land. As long as there is occupation, there will be resistance, either from Hezbollah or any other Lebanese group.”
In reply to a question about the pressure Syria was currently facing from the US regarding its stance towards Hezbollah and Palestinian factions, al Muallim said the Syrian position is strong and would not be influence by any external pressure. He called on Arab governments to cooperate with Damascus and show solidarity with one another. “If Arab countries do not cooperate, they will find themselves at risk of US pressure. Without Arab support, the situation will be bad, not just for Syria but all Arab countries.”