Assad warns of extremist backlash 

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has warned that Israel's campaign against Gaza will fuel extremism and terrorism in the Arab and Muslim world. 

"The effect of war is more dangerous than war... sowing seeds of extremism and terror around the region," Mr. Assad said in an exclusive BBC interview. 

He also said a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza could only be achieved if conditions set by both sides were met. 

Officials say the fighting has killed nearly 1,000 Gazans and 13 Israelis. 

'Sustainable' ceasefire 

In an interview in Damascus with BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, President Assad said his country, which hosts several exiled Hamas leaders, was doing everything it could to bring about a truce.

 "We have been working with many countries, primarily the French," he said, adding that Hamas had already accepted the need for a "sustainable ceasefire". 

Mr. Assad said that for Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets into Israel, the Israelis had to fully respect any ceasefire - which he said they failed to do in the past - and end their blockade of Gaza. 

Mr. Assad also argued that Israel's failure to respect past ceasefires and deliver on the peace process justified Palestinian resistance.

 "We haven't achieved peace yet and the Israelis never delivered since the beginning of the peace process in 1991," he added.

 "So when you don't accept the peace terms, you have to expect resistance." 

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has spoken of the need to look at the conflict in Gaza from both sides of the situation.


 "Stop launching rockets means stop assassinating Palestinians by your helicopters and your planes". 

 In an interview with the BBC's Jeremy Bowen he said Israelis needed to understand that "stop launching rockets means stop assassinating Palestinians by your helicopters and your planes". 

He also called for Israel to "respect" any ceasefire and said it was necessary to lift the embargo in Gaza in order to ensure any ceasefire remained in place

 He also said that for any future Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to be successful, Hamas would have to be included.

 "They are influential. That is most important. So they have to be brought to any action, otherwise it will not succeed," he added.

 Mr. Assad said that there was a risk of the war, or at least the "effects of the war", spreading throughout the region.

 "This is like sowing the seeds of extremism around the region, in the Arab and Muslim Worlds," he said. "Desperation breeds extremism. Extremism will produce terrorism," he said. 

"This is a political crisis combined with a humanitarian crisis. You have to solve them, otherwise you will sow the seeds of extremism."

 The Syrian leader said he hoped President-elect Barack Obama would be "involved seriously and directly in the peace process" as soon he takes office and that he would be welcome to visit Damascus at any time to co-operate on the issue. 

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