Paris, (SANA)- A Syrian-French summit meeting between President Bashar Al-Assad and French President Nicolas Sarkozy convened on Thursday at the Elysee Palace in Paris, during which a dinner banquet was held.

Both sides reviewed the development in the Syrian-French relations and the steps taken to enhance the bilateral cooperation in all fields matching with the deep historical ties between the two friendly countries and peoples.

Presidents Al-Assad and Sarkozy stressed the importance of building on the bridges of mutual confidence between the two countries to continue upgrading their relations and expanding their prospects, in a way that serves the common interests of Syria and France and their efforts in achieving stability and prosperity in the Middle East, which would positively reflect on Europe and the world.

The latest regional and international developments were reviewed during the meeting, with both sides stressing their keenness on continuing consultation on various issues of common interest.

The meeting was attended by Secretary General of the French Presidency Claude Gueant and Syrian Presidential Political and Media Advisor Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban.

In a statement following his talks with President Sarkozy, President Al-Assad said answering a question on Lebanon "There is French-Saudi coordination going on for months…and there is also French-Syrian coordination…There is no initiative as being reported…and in the final analysis, the solution is a Lebanese one, not Syrian, nor French or Saudi."

The President added, "What we want to do, and what we discussed today and previously with Saudi Arabia is how to facilitate the ideas proposed by the Lebanese to find out where those ideas can meet through measures, because we consider that none of the parties have interest in sedition in Lebanon."

President Al-Assad expressed Syria's appreciation of France's position regarding what was announced in Israel on conducting a referendum on its withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, adding that "In this framework, Israel plays the thief who steals what does not belong to him and goes to the 'thief market' to sell it…This is something logically, legally and morally unacceptable."

In an answer to a question on the Middle East peace process, President Al-Assad said "The American initiative started to move months ago on the Syrian track and the Palestinian track, but it is obvious that nothing is real so far…We can't blame the sponsor before we blame the main parties."

President Al-Assad continued "There is the Arab party which is ready for peace and the Israeli party which does not really exist in the peace process, or what we call the 'illusionary partner' or the 'absence of a partner'."

President Al-Assad added, ''We encouraged the French for further movement, especially after they appointed Mr. Jean Claude Cousseran as Special Envoy for the Peace Process. I will meet him to see what he's had during the interim since my previous meeting with him until now…to see if there is a prospect, notwithstanding that hope is slim.''

President Al-Assad continued,'' We in Syria are always optimistic, but optimism does not negate the fact that situations are worse, at least when it comes to the peace process.''

In reply to a question on France's endeavor to play the role of mediator on the Syrian track and if there are any proposals by President Sarkozy in this regard in coordination with the Turkish role, President Al-Assad said, ''We discussed the issue of peace previously with the French when Cousseran visited Syria and listened to the Syrian viewpoint,'' adding that today's meeting with President Sarkozy dealt with how far the US efforts went.

''Given that the US efforts reached nowhere as a result of Israel's intransigence and rejection of the peace process, it is natural that they will reach nowhere with the French,'' President Al-Assad said.

The President continued, ''We encouraged President Sarkozy so that France moves forward, but meanwhile, we have to listen to Cousseran's details, who is in charge of this file. He may have details that President Sarkozy does not necessarily have.''

President Al-Assad said, ''Regardless of what is the US previous and current stance on the negotiations and settlements, we reject the settlements to be the core issue…This is wrong,'' stressing that the real issue is the issue of land, which will return.

''Whoever wants to talk about peace must speak of the withdrawal from the land and the return of the rights and not of settlements. We've had the same stance on the issue all along.''

Answering a question on the combination between the French and Turkish roles regarding the peace process on the Syrian track, President Al-Assad said "I think this is not possible whether combination or separation because of the absence of a partner….How we demand a sponsor without the presence of a partner….Peace is a joint process that needs two sides."

"I believe that even the countries whose governments stand by Israel understand the Syrian viewpoint… It has been proven for all that Israel is the problem as well as it is the obstructer… the problem is no longer what does Syria say… the problem which we discuss with everybody is how we can convince Israel to move towards peace… we agree on the UN Security Council resolutions… they know that peace will not be achieved without the restoration of the whole land without any conditions.. This issue is non-negotiable…and what remains is how the other countries could convince Israel," President Al-Assad added.

On whether the Iraqi issue and the formation of the Iraqi government had been raised during his talks with President Sarkozy, the President said "this topic was not raised…Syria supports the formation of an Iraqi government as Iraq had finished the post-election stage… it was a difficult stage". President Al-Assad said that Syria was worried over the obstacles that have faced the formation of the government at that time or the agreement on the prime minister.

"Now, during the second stage there is the formation of the government… we wish Iraq would be able to form it as soon as possible in order to move into the political process," the President said, adding that Syria contacts with all Iraqi powers and always stresses the need for agreement among these powers.

President Al-Assad concluded "we have no special viewpoint on the form of the government as long as it will reflect national consensus or an Iraqi national unity government… this is enough for us in Syria because it only means one thing: preserving Iraq unity….we don't have any other interest in Iraq… so, we have only proposed this address."

Later on, President Al-Assad met at his residence in Paris a number of French elite intellectuals and journalists.

President Al-Assad said "The meeting provides an opportunity for exchanging opinions and ideas, and creating a permanent state of dialogue with the leaders of thought in the French society that helps build a more realistic and objective image regarding the issues we view differently for bringing viewpoints closer, in a way to assist us in tackling the issues and problems we encounter."

 During the meeting, President Al-Assad answered questions on Syria's view of the regional and international developments, especially the situation in the Middle East and the peace process.

President Al-Assad said, '' There is no actual peace process at the present time, given that the Israeli public, regardless of the stances of their government, are not ready for peace," adding that it is necessary to work to prevent the deterioration of the situation in the region to avoid war, since the current circumstances are not favorable to achieve peace.

President Al-Assad added, ''As things stand in the region, Europe's stances on the peace process cannot remain tied to the US role, which proved its inability to move this process forward. Therefore, a balanced European role is needed towards all the parties involved in peace, and is capable of effectively participating in achieving just and comprehensive peace.''

President Al-Assad said Syria attaches great importance to economic cooperation of regional dimension binding the Middle East and the neighboring countries to Central Asia and Europe, through establishing a network of strategic interests whose one of its natural results would be to serve stability and prosperity for the peoples of these regions.