Syria is famous for its fight against terrorism, not just in recent years, but over the last few decades, according to the country’s President Bashar Al-Assad. He was speaking at a London news conference alongside British premier Tony Blair.
Assad said Syria is committed to fighting terrorism and is happy to put its experience at the disposal of any country interested. He said he is sure that this will only strengthen the relationship between Britain and Syria.
Britain broke off diplomatic relations with Syria almost two decades ago when Syria was inculpated in an attempt to blow up an El Al flight from London. Assad went on to declare there are no terror organizations in Syria whatsoever. He said there are press offices of Palestinian organizations which some people may choose to define as ‘terrorist organizations.’ He said one can argue over terminology, but fundamentally these are most definitely press offices. Assad said he personally believes that these offices are an important mouthpiece for Palestinians.
It is well known that Islamic Jihad has a considerable presence in Damascus. Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for a number of bloody suicide bombings within the sovereign territory of Israel. The latest one in west Jerusalem only a few weeks ago killed 11 civilians, mainly children on their way to school. Another recent attack took place in Hebron where Jewish civilians were shot returning from prayers. Islamic Jihad’s basic agenda calls for the dismantling of Israel and creating an Islamic state in its place.
At the end of the news conference, Assad was asked about the expected attack on Iraq. He said only someone who is psychologically disturbed would want war adding that he is optimistic about a peaceful end to the crisis. He reiterated several times that the most important thing from Syria’s point of view is the implementation of U.N. resolutions.
Blair said that he believes Syria has an important role to play in the Middle East and international diplomacy. He fielded a question from an Arab journalist who said Blair seemed to have a contradictory approach, on the one hand supporting Bush’s aggressive policies as regards Iraq, but at the same time supporting peace in the Middle East. Blair gave a nondescript answer saying that he believed Iraq should not have weapons of mass destruction and that he supported a two state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians, with both states living in security.
Israel is concerned about Syria being welcomed into the international community. Britain and the U.S. are keen to keep Syria in their orbit so that they can monitor any terrorist activity there. Syria is benefiting from this attention by playing the terrorism card to its advantage. It is promising to assist in the fight against terror but is actively supporting terror groups in Lebanon, which it essentially is occupying, backed by Iran.