New Delhi, June 19: President Bashar Al-Assad today said that Syria recognizes importance of India and the role played by it for the Arab cause.

Hailing India as a supporter of the Arab cause, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad today said it can play a role in resolution of West Asia problem by using its "strong relations" with the US and Israel.

 The Syrian President, who discussed the West Asia situation with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday, expressed appreciation for India's stand on the Arab issue, saying it "always taken an objective position" and supported the Arab cause.

 Asked whether New Delhi can play a role in resolving the West Asia crisis, he replied in affirmative, saying "India has the credibility because of its objective position." 

To a question about New Delhi's growing ties with Washington, he said "India has strong relations with most of the world, including the US... If India wants to use these relations for ushering peace in West Asia, that will be positive." Expressing confidence that India will always play a "positive role", Al-Assad indicated that New Delhi should "convince" the US as also Israel to have peace on top of the agenda. Noting that India has not developed its relations with any country at the expense of its ties with "friends" in the Arab world, the Syrian President said "that is important for us".


 Assad said in a media briefing here that he was glad to visit India, and added that there is a lot of scope for India and Syria to improve bilateral relations.


The Trade between India and Syria is worth 5billion dollars, which can be pushed forward, the Syrian President said.

 Assad invited India to explore opportunities for joint ventures in major areas like infrastructure development, energy production, mineral processing as well as Information Technology (IT) education and training opportunities.

On his talks with Singh, Al-Assad said they discussed ways to push their bilateral relations, including in trade and economic fields with particular focus on energy, IT and fertilisers. 

Supporting India’s bid for permanent seat in the UN Security Council, Assad said that considering the population and position of India in the world, New Delhi has a rightful place in a reconstituted UNSC.

To a question about India's aspirations for the permanent membership of UN Security Council, Al-Assad said Syria "strongly supports" it as part of overall reforms of the world body. To press his point, he said India cannot be ignored as it is a big influential country housing one-sixth of the world population. “I have already told President Pratibha Patil last night about Syria’s support to India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UNSC,” the Syrian president said. 

Replying to a question, he said that Syria never criticized India on the violation of the human rights in the OIC release. "has always had reservations on anti-Indian resolutions (over the Kashmir issue) at the OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries)", the president told reporters.

 "We support direct negotiations between India and Pakistan on Kashmir," he added 

Assad said that Syria is against terrorism, and urged India and Pakistan to solve the Kashmir issue directly through talks. 

He pointed out that India and Syria are in similar surroundings with conflict going on in their neighborhood. 

Commenting on the situation in Iraq, Assad said there is a conflict going on in Iraq and no vision is emerging to solve the situation.

Attacking the US for its policy on Iraq, he warned that disintegration of the Arab country will have a domino's effect that could lead to chaos in the region. 

The Syrian President expressed hope that New Delhi, which has built close ties with Israel in the past decade, will play a proactive role in peace negotiations in the Middle East. Referring to India’s growing ties with Israel, President al-Assad said “India did not allow its relation with one country to be improved at the expense of another, including Syria”. He added: “India has always been supportive of the Arab causes.” 

Questioned about the ongoing stand off between US and Iran over nuclear issue, Assad said Teheran has a right to have a peaceful nuclear energy programme as per international norms. He said that the US and other European countries should directly discuss with Iran its on going nuclear energy programme. Al-Assad felt that like any other country Iran also had the right to peaceful use of nuclear technology as long as they follow the international rules and laws. "The problem is with the US. It is a political problem." He felt direct negotiation between the Americans and the Iranians could help ease much of the problem. 

"The United States under President George W. Bush was not interested in bringing peace to the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said here Friday. "We look forward to good relations with the US as its role for the peace process in the Middle East is very important. Unfortunately, this US administration is not interested in peace. We will have to wait for the next one," 

The Syrian president said he felt a "little less pessimistic" than he was a few months ago after Turkey’s initiative to bring peace between Syria and Israel, the Doha talks and the truce reached between the Hamas and the Israeli government. 

"There is a glimmer of hope now. There are positive changes that make the picture more positive." 

Responding to a question on how he saw the situation in the Middle East evolving the next five years, he said: "We could be an important player but we are not the only one."

He said Syria was ready to cooperate with anyone, including the US, for ushering in peace in the region but would not become anybody's "puppet". 

President Al-Assad linked the ongoing conflicts in the region, including Palestine, Lebanon and the indirect talks between Syria and Israel, and said: "All three should be negotiated together as one is related to the other and we are all inter-linked." 

He pointed out that stability and peace in Iraq were also crucial as "disintegration" of the country could have a "domino effect" not just in the Middle East but all of Asia. 

"The US says all the problems lie with Syria and so does the solution. When they say this, we feel we are a great country," the president said, taking a dig at Washington. But he made it clear that Syria was willing to do whatever it could to bring peace in the region.

 "We are going to help in the peace initiatives. We can also help in Iraq. But it depends on the Americans whether they want to see real and viable solutions to these problems." 

President Al-Assad said he needed to see more progress in Turkey-mediated indirect peace talks with Israel before he agrees to a meeting with the Israeli prime minister. 

"This is not like drinking tea," Assad said when asked if he would meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Paris. "The meeting between me and the Israeli prime minister will be meaningless without the technocrats laying the foundation, without reaching the final stage."

 Assad has dismissed Israeli demands the country abandon its alliance with Iran and groups like Hamas and Hezbollah as a requirement for peace.

Calling the Turkey-mediated talks "some glimmer of hope", Assad said the Israeli government needed do more if it wanted a meeting between him and Olmert. "Only sending signals without real result is meaningless," he said. "The last few weeks we had some glimmer of hope after indirect negotiations with the help of Turkey." 

Earlier, H. E. President Al-Assad stated "We are living in a turbulent region and India always supported our causes. We expected India to play a first of role in the peace process in the Middle East. We expect to have cooperation on many different issues, fight terrorism, having more trade between Syria and India," 

The Source: (ANI), (IANS), (Reuters) & (PTI)

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