Reuters: The United States and Europe must talk to Syria and Iran if they want a comprehensive solution to Iraq and other Middle East conflicts, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published on Friday.
ROME, Dec 15 (Reuters) – The United States and Europe must talk to Syria and Iran if they want a comprehensive solution to Iraq and other Middle East conflicts, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published on Friday.
Assad told Rome’s la Repubblica newspaper Damascus was ready to cooperate with Washington to resolve regional issues and challenged Israel to open up to Syria. He also said Europe had a “complex” over the Jewish Holocaust.
“The fact is that we (Syrians) live in this region, we know it well,” he said in the long interview, adding that Washington “needs our help” to formulate a plan for Iraq.
Asked if he was ready to work constructively with Washington, he said:
“Certainly we are ready to do so. Because if you don’t resolve regional questions — Iraq, Lebanon, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — it will be we bordering countries that will pay the highest price.”
Syria had “excellent relations” with many factions in Iraq and could support a national conference on the future of the country, he said. Assad also said the United States and Europe “must talk to Tehran”.
A report released last week in Washington by a special panel recommended the United States engage Syria and Iran to bring about stability in Iraq.
The White House has so far rejected such contacts and President George W. Bush renewed his criticism of Damascus on Wednesday, accusing Syria of human rights abuses and of trying to undermine Lebanese sovereignty.
Assad said the Iraq Study Group report vindicated Syria’s position that it had to be listened to.
Assad said Israel should also take up Syria’s offer to hold talks. “I say to (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert: ‘Take a chance. Discover if we are bluffing or not.'”
Israel is firmly opposed to talks with Syria, saying Damascus needs first to cut its links to the anti-Israeli militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Syria wants talks to recover the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967.
Asked about this week’s conference sponsored by Iran questioning the Holocaust — the killing of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany in World War Two — Assad said: “Listen, Europe has a complex about the Holocaust. We don’t because we didn’t do it.”