Across the Bay

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bashar Arafat

French President Chirac is not missing any opportunity to express his disdain for Bashar Assad, and his refusal to bestow any credibility on him or on the ludicrous proposition that Syria should be given a seat at the table on the Lebanon crisis.

Here's his latest comment:

"Experience has led me not to completely trust Syria. A few days ago, I noticed that the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, met with Syrian leaders and President Bashar Assad, and Moratinos declared that Syria would use all its influence to build peace in the region. Within a half hour, Syria denied what was said about it. This is not encouraging. I repeat, I have no trust [in Syria]." Chirac added, "Syria has more than once declared its agreement on the Lebanese identity of the Shebaa Farms. But it never accepted to prove its agreement in writing, even when this is a legal demand, so that the UN could adjust the border."

And reminding Syria that the UN investigation is not going away, he added, "Therefore, I repeat, I don't trust [Syria]. I might also add that there is another big problem regarding which Syria can launch a strong confidence-building initiative, and that is to facilitate the work of the UN international investigative commission whose aim is to uncover the truth behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri."

Syrian blogger Ammar Abdulhamid caught the Moratinos fiasco a few days ago and wrote:

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos spoke on Thursday to Moron and came out with the impression that some kind of an agreement on Hezbollah. He even shared this impression with the rest of the unbelieving world in the press conference following his visit. But, and in a typical Syrian fashion, and mere hours after the FM’s departure, Syrian officials made a statement categorical[ly] denying this matter. So, is there anyone else who cares to talk to the Moron?

Of course, it wouldn't be typical Syrian fashion if it ended there. No. The (Lebanese) AFP reporter who reported Moratinos' statement (in Spanish, which were intentionally omitted by interpreter) was kicked out of the country.

Randa Takieddin put it well, "It was strange of Moratinos, who was aware of what Syria was doing in Lebanon and of the messages it used to ignore, to return to Damascus thinking that he would succeed. It was equally strange that many commentators said, when the Israeli war on Lebanon broke out, that somebody should talk to Syria. ... Those who are calling for dialogue with Syria have definitely forgotten that France has great experience in such dialogues. Dialogue is futile after the death and destruction Lebanon has suffered."

Chirac reportedly informed the Spaniards of his disapproval of the visit and warned that it would affect French-Spanish relations. It should be noted here that this is not Chirac's "personal" view, as the Syrians like to think. The Quai d'Orsay has come out fully in support of Chirac on not talking to Syria.

As for the other part about Shebaa, Chirac may be responding to the latest round of lies and deceit by the Syrians on this issue which they fabricated.

A few days ago, the venomous Buthaina Shaaban told Wolf Blitzer (scroll down) that the Shebaa Farms were governed by UNR 242, which governs the Golan Heights. The problem of course is that this means that they are not governed by UNR 425, and thus, have nothing to do with Lebanon. Yet, they are still not saying that they are part of the Golan. And Walid Moallem told PM Seniora, as Seniora himself revealed on Al-Arabiya, that Syria has no problems with the UN taking over control of Shebaa, but that Syria would still not officially demarcate the borders with Lebanon.

Syria's deceitfulness has become quite exposed, and the Shebaa farce even more so. It's nothing more than a tool, quickly becoming the last remaining one, to keep Lebanon hostage.

Aounist MP Nemetallah Abi Nasr addressed Moallem in a statement yesterday, and said:

"The words of Moallem in Beirut has removed any illusion about a positive change in the mentality of the Syrian regime. The intent to dominate Lebanon is still the same."

"Moallem behaved as if Lebanon was still under Syrian control, and tried to overbid the Lebanese by calling for the expansion of the war and hinted at internal (Lebanese) strife, and this is the permanent Syrian desire to return to Lebanon through the door of stopping (intra-Lebanese) strife."

"Pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Shebaa Farms cannot be complete without border demarcation between Lebanon and Syria, and putting the Lebanese at ease as to Syria's intentions cannot happen without an exchange of ambassadors between Beirut and Damascus, and without the release of Lebanese prisoners in Syrian jails, and without the cessation of arms smuggling across the border." (PS. Abi Nasr's statement here is almost identical to the one made by Minister Joe Sarkis of the Lebanese Forces upon Moallem's visit)

"So far, based on the statements and behavior of the Syrian officials, we are not sensing any honest intention to open a new page in [bilateral] relations and the disappearance of the hegemonic mentality in their dealings with Lebanon. The Lebanese noticed that Minister Walid Moallem left Beirut before the end of the Arab Ministerial conference as an expression of his annoyance at the rejection of his demand. His demand in reality is the refusal to deploy the Lebanese Army in the south all the way to the border. But the Lebanese government made the right decision whether Moallem likes it or not."

And finally, here's a comment, a propos Abi Nasr's allusion to Moallem's threats. The other day, the Syrian official rag al-Thawra launched an attack on Hariri, Jumblat, and Geagea. The attack on Geagea was the most direct: "Geagea receives direct aid from the Mossad and the CIA ... in order to provoke acts of violence in Syria."

It should be evident that Syria is, and always was, part of the problem, not the solution.