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Cablegate: Arab Summit, Peace Process, Golan, Rice's Statements, Iraq

VZCZCXYZ0016
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0312/01 0871218
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281218Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3229
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 6687
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4433
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3046
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 7583
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1649
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 4986
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1194
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7320

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000312

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR PA, NEA/ARN, INR/IC/CD, INR/R/MR:STHIBEAULT AND
JMCCARTER, VOA NEWS CA, NEA/PPD:CBOURGEOIS, AZAIBACK, AND
AFERNANDEZ, IIP/G/NEA-SA MDAVIDSON
WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC
CENTCOM FOR CCPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR PREL KPAO OPRC SY
SUBJECT: Arab Summit, Peace Process, Golan, Rice's Statements, Iraq
(3/28)

1. Summary: The Syrian press on Mar. 28 reported President Asad's
summit meeting with Saudi King Abdullah on Mar. 27 on the eve of the
Arab summit in Riyadh. Talks dealt with bilateral relations,
horizons for consolidating and boosting such relations, and topics
on the agenda of the Arab Summit. Both leaders stressed their
commitment to make the summit a success and to achieve security and
stability in the region. They also reviewed the situation in the
regional arena. President Asad also met on Mar. 27 with President
Lahoud of Lebanon, King Hamad Ben Issa Al- Khalifa of Bahrain and UN
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and an accompanying delegation. Talks

SIPDIS
focused on developments in the regional and international arenas,
particularly Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories, the
peace process, and the UN role in maintaining world peace and
security.

Papers also reported that Arab League SecGen Amr Mousa stressed, in
a statement to the Tunisian newspaper al-Chourouq published on Mar.
27, that "there will be no amendment to the Arab peace initiative
approved by the Beirut summit, and that the Riyadh summit seeks to
revive this plan." "The Arab initiative deals with the Israeli
conflict as a whole because the initiative talks about the
withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories, whether the
Palestinian, Syrian or the Lebanese lands," Mousa noted. He added
that the Arab principles and bases are clear regarding withdrawal to
the June 4th, 1967, line and negotiations on the Palestinian
refugees and Jerusalem as part of the occupied land.

Papers also featured the Russian Foreign Ministry's annual report
published on Mar. 27 reiterating the importance of taking a new and
serious step to resume the peace process in the region on all
tracks, including the Syrian track. The Russian Foreign Ministry's
statement recommended efforts to revive negotiations on all peace
tracks, to hold an international conference on the Middle East and
to free the region of WMD. The report reiterated the importance of
the Baker-Hamilton report on the situation in Iraq, the significance
of setting a timetable for the pullout of foreign forces from Iraq
and the need to open a dialogue with Syria and Iran to find a
solution to the situation in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Papers also reported that Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan
addressed a letter on Mar. 27 to UN SecGen Ban Ki-Moon reiterating
their commitment to Syrian Arab identity, noting that laws issued by
the Israeli occupation authority regarding the Golan, particularly
the law of annexation, are null and void. They charged the Israeli
occupation with stealing Golan water, transferring it to Israeli
settlements, then selling it at high prices to Syrian citizens under
occupation. They confirmed that Golan detainees and captives in
Israeli prisons are exposed to political and moral oppression and
denial of health care, which has led to the death of some of them.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"President Asad and King Abdullah Ben Abdul-Aziz
Al Saud of Saudi Arabia stress commitment to make the Arab Summit a
success and to achieve security and stability in the region.
President Asad holds talks in Riyadh with President Emile Lahoud of
Lebanon, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and King Hamad Ben Issa
Al-Khalifa of Bahrain. Saudi TV: President Asad is a dear guest in
al-Riyadh" (3/27)

"President Emile Lahoud calls for supporting Lebanon's pan-Arab and
national positions. Lahoud in Riyadh emphasizes rejection of
settling Palestinian refugees and insists on the right of return for
Palestinians" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/27)

"Russian Foreign Ministry underlines the necessity for taking a new
and serious step to resume peace process in the region on all
tracks, including the Syrian track" 9Government-owned Tishreen,
3/27)

"US Secretary of State Rice calls on Arabs to be open with Israel,
and rejects the final status negotiations. Olmert is angry. The
Palestinian Authority finds nothing new in Rice's ideas. Washington
diminishes its aid to the Palestinian Authority" (Government-owned

Al-Ba'th, 3/27)

"Citizens of occupied Golan reiterate commitment to their Syrian
Arab identity" (Government-owned
Al-Ba'th, 3/27)

"Killing of 5 US soldiers in Baghdad and al-Anbar. Scores of Iraqis
killed in terrorist attacks in Ramadi and Tel Afar. Al-Dari
[Chairman of Muslims Scholars Council]: All Iraqis reject US
occupation" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/27)

"A blow to Bush: The Senate votes for scheduling pullout of US
troops from Iraq" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/27)

3. Editorial Block Quotes:

--------------------------------------------- ----

"Summit of the Minimum: Damascus Awaits a
Decisive Position on 5 Files; Two Others Will
Remain Unresolved"

--------------------------------------------- -----

Thana al-Imam, a commentator in independent al-Watan, commented
(3/27): "Syrian political analysts believe Syria is viewing the
summit with 'realism and rationalism'. While it does not pin much
hope on the summit, especially with regard to bridging inter-Arab
differences, it hopes the gathering will at least be 'the summit of
the minimum,' adopting a unified position calling on Israel to
comply with the Arab peace plan....

Syria also hopes the Riyadh summit will clearly and explicitly
reject the pressure that Syria is coming under and the attempt to
isolate Damascus. According to leaked information, US Assistant
Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Ellen

SIPDIS
Sauerbrey did not meet with Syrian officials to discuss the pending
regional issues during her recent visit to Damascus. She confined
her visit to the declared objectives, namely, discussing the problem
of the Iraqi refugees in Syria. This indicates that the United
States is proceeding with its policy to isolate Syria....

"The Arab summit will definitely call on Israel to resume peace
negotiations and will support the Arab peace plan, especially since
this plan is originally a Saudi plan. Many analysts stress that
there is already a Saudi-American accord to back this plan as a kind
of American support for the moderate Kingdom and to show that the
world's only superpower is making efforts to revive the stalled
peace talks, as Washington is somewhat embarrassed by the suspension
of these talks....

"The Arab summit might also meet most of the other Syrian demands,
though perhaps with a less emphatic tone than Damascus would like to
see. But two files will remain unresolved: the Iranian uranium
enrichment file and the Lebanese file...."

-------------------------------------

"The Arab Peace Plan Will Be Amended"

-------------------------------------

Waddah Abd-Rabbuh, Chief Editor of independent Al-Watan, said
(3/27): "We are not optimistic about the results that the Arab
summit will produce because some Arab leaders will effectively push
for amending the Arab peace plan, although they are saying they will
not....

"The talk by some Arab leaders about the need for Arabs to take
international developments into consideration when they present the
plan and about the need to submit the plan to the UN Security
Council means that the plan will be amended under international
cover....

"The mission of the Security Council will be to amend the plan and
give it an international cover so that no Arab country will be able

to object.... This is part of the American scheme, which seeks to
bring the Arabs and Israelis to the negotiating table, where nothing
will be achieved, so that the United States will have enough time to
deal a painful military strike to Iran...."

------------------------

"Much Ado About Nothing"

------------------------

Ghazi al-Dada, a commentator in government-owned Tishrin, wrote
(3/27): "Condoleezza Rice can make as much as she wants of her
misleading statements about Middle East peace.... It is hard to
believe that these sugar-coated statements indicate a change in US
positions, which are totally biased toward Israel....

"Palestinians and Arabs need more that courteous statements for
media consumption.... What maters is action, not words....

"Up to this moment the United States, with its current
administration, is the main contributor to the strict economic and
political siege on Palestinians....

"We will see if the US Administration will deal positively and
seriously with the Arab peace plan, which earned unexpected praise
from Rice, and if it will do what it should do and apply sufficient
pressure on Israel to force it to admit that Arabs have rights it
must return based on international laws...."

Corbin

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