The Syrian Concept of Peace

In the aftermath of the Second Gulf War, the shuttle trips of James Baker, the then USA Secretary of State, within the States of the Middle East resulted in the agreement of all such States concerned with the Arab-Israeli conflict to attend the Madrid Peace Conference to settle the Arab-Israeli struggle, under the patronage of USA and the then Soviet Union and later the Russian. Two bilateral and multilateral negotiating frameworks stemmed from this federation The Conference was held on 30 October 1991. Motives and objectives of the participants in Madrid Conference, as regards the Golan question in particular and the Arab-Israeli struggle in general, were clearly described in the speeches delivered in the inauguration ceremony by both Farouk Al-Shar'a, Syria's Foreign Minister, and Yitzhak Shamir, the then Israeli prime Minister. Farouk Al-Shar'a said that the Security Council's two Resolutions 242 and 338, upon the basis which the Conference was being held, should be wholly implemented in all aspects. Resolution 242 clearly emphasized in its preamble the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, which implied that each inch of the Arab territories, i.e. the Golan, West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, that Israel occupied by war and force should be completely returned to their legitimate owners. The Israeli occupation of the Syrian and Palestinian territories led to displacing of about half a million Syrian Citizens from the Golan, to which they have not been hitherto able to return, and of about a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees living in Syria who were deprived of the right to return to Palestine; the HOMEland of their fathers and forefathers. The Syrian Arab Delegation came to this Conference, in spite of the Syrian reservations concerning its form and mandate, just to try to reach a just honorable comprehensive peace for all sides and on all fronts of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Delegation asserted the keen desire in the success of the peace process this necessarily required that the multilateral negotiations, which were not provided for in Resolution 242, should not start before realizing a clear tangible progress in the lateral negotiations which would evidence the elimination of the basic impediments on the road for peace. Yitzhak Shamir, in his speech, said, " We believe that the objective of the direct negotiation is to sign peace treaties between Israel and its neighbors, to reach an agreement on measures transitory to autonomy with Arab Palestinians and that the question is not the territory but our existence. It will be much regrettable to primarily concentrate negotiations first of all on the territory, which is the quickest way between us of freezing it, whereas what we need fore must and in the first place is to build confidence, to eliminate the danger of confrontation and to develop our relations in the most possible ways. Yitzhak Shamir cleared the Israeli position Quoted in an interview he gave to the Israeli Daily Haa’retz as saying, "It is possible to reach a peace agreement with Syria; even without returning the Occupied Golan; by signing a peace treaty. Suitable conditions may be established on the borders, such as decreasing the military presence between the two States and a pre-notification of exercises". Such statements of Shamir came in harmony with the decision adopted, by the Knesset, on November 11, 1991 by a majority of 26 pros and 12 against, which literary stipulated that "the Knesset re-asserts that the "Occupied Golan", being an integral part of State of Israel, constitute an important bond of the State security and are not subject to negotiations, The Knesset calls upon the Government to provide the resources required for the economic development and to expend settlement therein". Such decision responded to the proposal of the blocks of Labour, Likud, Hethia, Tsnomite and Molidet Parties in the Knesset.

With this in mind, the late Rabin, as premier and defense minister justifies the construction of settlements on the Golan, as necessary to the defense of Israel. He is the engineer of Israel's "scale of National Priorities" as it is called. Such role has been illustrated by at his signature of Oslo 'A' and 'B' Accords with the Palestinian Liberation Front ( P.L.O.) and the Wadi Araba Agreement with Jordan. In a press conference held with President Clinton in Washington on 16 March 1994, Rabin said: We know that, unless we join serious and compulsory negotiations, the moment in which we have to take painful decisions is approaching. Taking such decisions with Syria are justified by the hope for peace and the real gains it will bring about to Israelis. We are not going to bargain for our security, but we will be ready to do what is required from our side if the Syrians are ready to do what its required from their side. In a speech he delivered at inaugurating the Knesset's summer session, Rabin referred to an Israeli public referendum for withdrawal from the Golan. He said, "We are seriously preparing for the negotiations and working for various solution relating to the nature of peace, depth of withdrawal from the Golan, security arrangements and stages of peace application until it is time to present the normalization process before the withdrawal from the Golan is finalized, then we will call for a referendum. It is the People, and only the People, who decide". In a political statement he made at the Knesset about one year before his assassination, Rabin defined the outline of his policy concerning peace with Syria. He said, "The Occupied Golan, with or without settlements, are important for the security of the State of Israel. There is no force in the world that could push us to give any concession if there will not be complete peace; real peace with all the security arrangements . Yes; the peace of the brave between Syria and Israel. The real peace only would make us ready for the change. We are not going to sign any peace agreement with Damascus unless we are convinced that our security is guaranteed".

Peace as seen by the late Hafez Assad

President Hafez Assad holds a distinctive notable rank in the Arab, regional and international arena. His political rank and wisdom are prevalent in governing Syria for more than 25 years and leading the most important confrontations with Israel, not to mention all the other levels. It is therefore important to present his concepts for the settlement of the Arab-Zionist conflict; which manifest the national vision mingled with zeal concern over the Country's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The President's stances are clearly displayed in the many interviews he granted to the press and the two summit meetings with President Clinton in Geneva and Damascus, several summits with Warn Christopher, the USA Secretary of State, let alone the many meetings he held with numerous American and Western officials. In an interview he granted on 24 December 1992 to the two newspapers, "Al-Shark Al-Awsat" 'The Middle East' of London and the American "Time", the President defined the possibilities of the peace "concerning the serious impression which prevailed along the first few days of such sixth round. He confirmed that the Syrian paper did not include anything relative to temporary agreements of partial withdrawals". During the second part of the said sixth round of Washington negotiations, the Israelis responded to such Syrian paper by submitting a new paper that carried many proposals which did not providing any progress. This was cleared by the late. Mouafak Al-Allaf, the Head of the Syrian Delegation, who said, "After they consultations carried out in Israel during the ten-day break of the sixth round of negotiations, the Israeli Delegation has presented a seven-page document which does not include any positive element. It is inconsistent with the spirit of the peace process. This can not be an alternative of the Syrian Delegation's paper. There is great and important difference between the two papers. The Syrian Delegation's paper represents a serious and sincere attempt to present something which puts in the first stand all bases which guarantee the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace in the area." In another instance, Mr. Al-Allaf said that the Israeli paper contained stale Israeli ideas talking vaguely about a withdrawal linked with security pretexts and considerations which were rejected not only by the Arab side but also by the international community. The Israeli paper tried to distort the text and spirit of the Security Council Resolution 242 which has put a two-side formula; the Israeli withdrawal from the Arab territories occupied during the 1967-War and the complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories.

President Assad cleared his position concerning the high-level of negotiations; "Peace requires long and exhaustive discussion (... ). Meeting of Heads of States to discuss a subject similar to the Arab-Israeli conflict could possibly lead to wars, probably more wars rather than peace (... ). All negative possibilities may occurs if there is a disagreement on the summit level. When negotiators on other levels disagree, there are leaderships and governments that give directives, for a change, but disagreement on the level of presidencies can not be unpaired."

In the interview granted by the President on 10 May 1993 to "Alwasat", the London Magazine, he said about the nature of the Syrian understanding of peace; that "It was a great advance forward when Syria presented the concept of a total peace for a total withdrawal. It was intended to throw the ball into the Israeli arena. We presumed a complete withdrawal for a complete peace, but they did not agree. There is no place therefore for putting hypothetical questions or raising possibilities and probabilities while the other side has not accepted the basic principle (... ). The peace process as a whole, as documented, was based on the necessity to achieve a comprehensive settlement. Separate peace would contradict the basic rules under which the peace process has initially started. Right from the beginning we have agreed that the peace should be comprehensive".

In his speech delivered in Geneva after meeting President Clinton, President Assad defined the nature of the peace sought for as saying, "Syria is seeking the just peace, and it is dealing with Israel in a strategic enterprise that guarantees Arab rights and terminates the Israeli occupation (.......) In case the Israeli leaders have the courage respond to this peace then a new era of security and stability, beside ordinary peace relations among all will reign in the Region.

This is the outline of the Syrian position as indicated by President Hafez Al-Assad. They refer to a series of national positions the Syrian negotiators hold on to face the Israeli tactic maneuvers delaying the process, such as asking to raise to the level of negotiating, to hold a summit with President Hafez Assad, to carry out open or secret bilateral negotiations in the Middle East along with those of Washington similar to those secretly carried out with the Palestinian negotiators in Oslo.

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