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Cablegate: Special Report: Wolf, Pelosi and Issa Codels (April 2-6)

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SUBJECT: Special Report: Wolf, Pelosi and Issa Codels (April 2-6)

1. Summary: Syrian papers welcomed the visit to Damascus by
members of US House of Representatives Frank Wolf, Joe Pitts, and
Robert Aderholt on March 30-31, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and six other
Representatives on Apr. 3-4, and Representative Darrell Issa on Apr.
5.

The three government-owned dailies on Apr. 2 published only the
brief Syrian News Agency reports on the meetings that Wolf, Pitts
and Aderholt held with President Asad and FM Mouallem in Damascus on
Apr. l, offering no further reporting and making no comment.

Independent al-Watan, on the other hand, referred to the statement
that the three representatives issued after the meetings, describing
it as "a slap in the face of the hoped-for Syrian-American
dialogue." The paper said the Representatives' statement
"reiterated the US Administration's demands of Syria and brought us
back to square one." From the statement, al-Watan quoted the
following: "During all our meetings, we raised the need to prevent
foreign fighters who kill innocent American and Iraqi soldiers from
entering Iraq via Syria and the need to halt support for Hizbollah
and HAMAS and to recognize Israel's right to exist in peace and
security and to stop interference in Lebanon." Al-Watan also quoted
the visitors' statement that they met with "businessmen, religious
leaders, former political prisoner and current opposition leader
Riad Seif, and other members of Syrian civil society."

In another article on Apr. 2, entitled "Damascus Sees in US House of
Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Visit an Opportunity for
Dialogue," al-Watan quoted an unnamed high ranking Syrian official
as saying the following: "Damascus views this visit with interest,
as it appreciates Pelosi's positions, which represent American
public opinion as revealed by the latest election, especially the
opposition to the war on Iraq and the need to find a peaceful
solution to the problem through dialogue with the influential powers
in the region." "Damascus finds in visit of the Speaker of the US
House of Representatives an opportunity to express its position and
explain that Syria has never been part of the problems of the region
and that the problem lies with the US Administration's ideology,
which Pelosi and the American voters reject." "The meeting with
Pelosi is an opportunity for the dialogue that Syria calls for and
considers to be the solution to the problems of the region."

Papers reported Pelosi's arrival in Damascus on Apr. 3 and her
meetings with President Asad, VP Shara and FM Mouallem on Apr. 4.
Headlines featured President Asad's statement to Pelosi that "direct
dialogue could clarify a number of realities and tackle the main
issues which are of mutual concern between Syria and the US, as well
as the security of the region". "The visit of Mrs. Pelosi and the
accompanying delegation to Syria conveys a clear message that
dialogue and peace are the common language among nations," President
Asad added.

President Asad renewed Syria's commitment to peace, referring to the
role played by Syria and the US since the launch of peace process in
Madrid, to the following negotiations, and to Syria's adoption of
the Arab peace initiative, a fact that proves the credibility of
Syria's peace approach as a strategic option.

On Iraq, the President underlined Syria's keenness for Iraq's unity,
independence, stability and security through a comprehensive
national reconciliation and a timetable for the withdrawal of
foreign troops.

"Accordance among the Lebanese is the basic factor to tackle the
main issues which guarantee restoration of stability in Lebanon,"
President Asad said.

Mrs. Pelosi stressed that her visit to Syria aims at "opening
horizons of dialogue between Syria and the US to deal with the main
regional issues," pointing to the positive impressions she and her
accompanying delegation took from Syria.

Pelosi described her talks with President Asad as productive, saying
"we came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to
Damascus is a road to peace."

"Our visit to Syria was very necessary based on the recommendations
of the Baker-Hamilton Committee on Iraq and on the determination of
Head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to visit Syria," Mrs.
Pelosi told a news conference with FM Mouallem.

She added, "the talks of the US delegation in Damascus concentrated
on the necessity of achieving peace in the Middle East, combating
terrorism, and regional issues", stressing that peace in the Middle
East is a priority for the American people, the region and t
he
world.

Mrs. Pelosi expressed relief over President Asad's reassurances made
to the US delegation that Syria was ready to resume the peace
process in the Middle East.

FM Mouallem underscored Syria's readiness to engage in dialogue,
based on mutual respect, renewing Syria's commitment to achieve a
just and comprehensive peace based on Israeli withdrawal from
occupied Arab lands, including the Syrian Golan.

"Differences in viewpoint between Syria and the US is because of the
absence of dialogue and because Syria lives in this region which
witnesses disorder," FM Mouallem said, describing the visit as a
contribution to narrowing those differences.

"Syria is ready to realize a just and comprehensive peace according
to the Arab peace initiative," he reiterated.

On HAMAS, Mouallem said it is a basic part of the political process
in Palestine, having won the elections there.

Regarding Iraq, the Syrian Minister added, "We explained to the US
delegation the measures taken by Syria to prevent any infiltration
along the Syrian-Iraqi borders," noting the formation of Syrian and
Iraqi committees for the purpose.

On Lebanon, Minister Mouallem said Syria aspires to excellent
relations with brotherly Lebanon based on encouraging dialogue among
the Lebanese parties to reach national accordance. He denied any
arms' smuggling from Syria to Lebanon.

"This visit paves the way for a constructive dialogue in the future
to establish best relations between the Syrian and American
peoples," FM Mouallem added.

Government-owned Al-Thawra on Apr. 3 cited Syrian Ambassador in
Washington Imad Mustafa's press statement describing Pelosi's visit
as a "positive step." He noted that leaders of both the Democratic
and Republican parties "have made many public statements on the need
for public engagement in a dialogue with Syria." "According to
media reports, the US Administration was shocked by the visit. I
read in The New York Times that President Bush personally intervened
to prevent the visit, but Pelosi said she came based on the
recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton committee." The ambassador
said the visit is "part of the calm dialogue and a reminder of the
basic fact that we might have different policies but we must remain
diplomatically engaged in a dialogue to reach some understandings."

All papers on Apr. 4 featured Pelosi's press statement in Beirut on
Apr. 3 describing her visit to Damascus as important and expressing
hope that reciprocal trust could be built by this visit.

Papers on Apr. 6 reported President Asad's meeting on Apr. 5 with
Representative Darrell Issa. Talks dealt with developments in the
region and means and mechanisms to start relations on a correct
basis between Syria and the United States. Issa also met with FM
Mouallem, who emphasized Syria's commitment to dialogue with the US
on all issues and asserted the importance of the recent visits paid
by US Congressmen to Damascus for finding solutions to the problems
of the region. Issa reiterated the importance of continuing
dialogue between Syria and the US, adding that "the latest visits by
US Congressmen to Syria constitute a new start for joint action to
solve pending issues between the two countries." Issa said his
meeting with President Asad was "very constructive." In a press
statement at the end of his talks in Damascus, Issa underscored that
he joins his voice to that of Pelosi and supports the
recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Committee regarding the
necessity of dialogue with Syria. "At some point we will have a new
Ambassador," he said.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"Pelosi talks about opening horizon for dialogue, confirming her
good impressions. President Asad: Dialogue and peace are common
language among peoples... Syria is committed to peace as a strategic
option" (Government-owned Tishreen, 4/5)

"Speaker of US House of Representatives Pelosi leaves Damascus with
good impressions: Damascus is the road to peace. FM Mouallem: We
are ready to realize a just and comprehensive peace according to the
Arab peace initiative" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 4/5)

"Information Minister Bilal: Speaker of US House of Representatives
Pelosi's visit to Syria was fruitful and positive" (Government-owned
Tishreen, 4/5)

"President Asad reviews the situation in Iraq and the region with a
delegation of US House of Representatives. FM Mouallem: The
dialogue is to reach common denominators that would help find
solutions to the crises in the region" (Government-owned Tishreen,
4/2)

"Pelosi, Welcome to dialogue. Mustafa, Syrian Ambassador to
Washington: A positive step towards a calm dialogue"
(Government-owned Al-Thawra, 4/3)

"Pelosi in Beirut: Syria has hope for trip to Syria"
(Government-owned Syria Times, 4/3)

3. Editorial Block Quotes:

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

"And Pelosi to Damascus"

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

Izz-al-Din al-Darwish, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen,
wrote (4/3): "US legislators from both the Republican and
Democratic parties realize that there is disorder in US policy
toward the region. They also realize that they have to work to
redress this disorder, beginning with the mistakes of the war on
Iraq and relations with Syria and ending with US foreign policy in
general.

"In this context come the visits to Syria by US parliamentary
delegations from the Republican and Democratic parties. These
visits will reach their highest point tomorrow with US House of
Representatives Speaker Pelosi's visit....

"Ms. Pelosi comes to Damascus with a large number of facts collected
by previous delegations on the true Syrian constructive role in
dealing with the issues of the region. This role was accurately
sensed by the US Republican Representatives who came to Damascus
before her -- Frank Wolf, Joe Pitts, and Robert Aderholt....

"Everyone, both in and outside the United States, knows that Syria
is open to dialogue with the US administration.... Syria is
interested in listening to US views and ensuring that Americans know
its true stands.

"People can remove a lot of misunderstanding and learn about
policies through dialogue and discussion....

"Syria is known at the world level for being committed to
international legitimacy. It does not need to present evidence in
this respect, and Americans know this fact well. Syria has asserted
to them many times that it is interested in working with the
neighboring states to help Iraq overcome its tragedies, proceeding
from the fact that Iraq is a fraternal country and a neighbor.

"Syria also asserted to Americans that it is interested in
re-launching the peace process and achieving peace, security, and
stability in the region in accordance with the Arab peace initiative
and on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

"That is Syria before, during, and after the visits by Ms. Pelosi
and other US officials: Inclination toward constructive dialogue,
efforts to achieve peace, security, and stability, and adherence to
international charters.

"Ms. Pelosi, welcome to Damascus, and there is great hope that
balance will be restored to US policy in the region."

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

"Dialogue Is the Route to Understanding"

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

Umar Jaftali, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen, said
(4/3): "Pelosi will find out in Damascus that Syria reaches out for
a serious and sincere dialogue with US officials and that Syria's
true image is different from the one that entails unfairness and
preconceptions....

"The US House speaker will personally see the truth of Syria's
position and the extent of its seriousness in solving all pending
problems, whether to establish security in the region or to build
fruitful and constructive relations with the United States....

"Pelosi knows that Syria has an important and constructive role
based on the criteria of justice and the international resolutions,
and that it is not possible to do without Syria in any serious
attempt to correct the accumulating mistakes, from the problem of
the Israeli occupation of Arab land to Israel's failure to comply
with UN resolutions, which upsets the balance in the region, to the
situation in Iraq....

"Syria has always stressed that dialogue, not estrangement, is the
way to reach understanding and establish correct and balanced
relations....

"We have great hope in the results of Codel visits and dialogue.
Pelosi, who is welcome in Syria, might, through her visit, help
correct the situation and restore balance to Syrian-American
relations."

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

"Pelosi's Visit"

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

Ahmad Dawwa, a commentator in government-owned Al-Thawrah, wrote
(4/3): "Pelosi's visit to Syria shows that US officials are
convinced of the importance of dialogue with Syria and of Syria's
key role in the region.... Also, the visit reflects an explicit
admission that Bush's policy of isolating Syria has failed....

"Statements by Pelosi and Democrats in general about Syria and
problems of the region, which substantially disagree with Bush's
policy, open the door for a serious and constructive dialogue
between Syria and the United States to find acceptable common
denominators about the sensitive issues in the region and,
consequently, prevent deterioration in the region's security and
stability....

"Syria welcomes Pelosi's visit and any visit by any American
official who opts for dialogue and cooperation to solve the problems
of the region. Those who believe Syria will offer concessions or
bargain over its rights are wrong. All that Syria wants is to spare
the region further damage as a result of the US Administration's
policy and to safeguard Arab rights. If any party must make
concessions, then it is the US Administration, which believed that
pressure could force Syria to change its positions....

"Pelosi's visit to Syria acquires its importance from the delicate
and sensitive situation in the region and from the position that
Pelosi occupies at the helm of the US House of Representatives....

"Pelosi is in Damascus not because she loves this beloved city but
because she realizes that it is impossible to ignore Syria's role.
Others, who also realize this fact, need to wake up."

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

"Importance of the Visit is in the Event Itself"
--------------------------------------------- ---

Muhyi-al-Din al-Muhammad, a commentator in government-owned Tishrin,
wrote (4/3): "Pelosi's visit to Damascus is an important step in
the right direction because it is part of Syria's dialogue with the
United States and the rest of the world and because the US House of
Representatives Speaker strongly opposes the war in Iraq and knows
that the problems of the region are connected and that Syria can
play an important role in finding solutions....

"It can, therefore, be said that the importance of the visit lies in
the visit itself, regardless of the results it will produce. This
is because this visit by the Speaker of the House of Representatives
revives the Syrian-American dialogue over issues of the region. It
is also consistent with Syria's desire to push the political process
in Iraq forward, help Lebanon overcome its problem, and revive the
Middle East peace process based on the terms of reference of the
Madrid conference and the relevant UN resolutions, especially
Resolutions 242, 338, and 194, while taking into consideration what
was accomplished before the suspension of the negotiations between
Syria and Israel....

"Syria today receives Nancy Pelosi with an open heart and mind and
with deep realization that it is difficult, if not impossible, to
have identical views on all the issues that might be raised on the
discussion table. But we trust that the continuation and deepening
of the dialogue is a demand by Syria and the countries of the
region, and that if the dialogue does not help attain all the
desired results, it at least revives hope for reduced tension and
for better results in the next dialogue rounds, no matter how long
it takes."

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

"Dialogue and Respecting the Other"

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

Isam Dari, Chief Editor of government-owned Tishrin, commented
(4/4): "With all realism, we acknowledge that Mrs. Pelosi's visit,
important as it is, will not be able to remove all the obstacles
blocking the restoration of Syrian-US relations to normalcy or
overcome the phase of misunderstanding or dissipate the heavy dark
clouds that hover in the sky of these relations and prevent mutual
understanding and dialogue. However, this does not mean that the
visit will not achieve any positive results. Although we do not
consider the mere visit as a positive development irrespective of
the results that it will produce, we believe that the dialogue which
she will hold in Damascus will be of great importance...."

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

"The Hot Spot"

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

Khalid al-Ashhab, a commentator in government-owned Al-Thawra, wrote
(4/4): "Pelosi's visit to Damascus is the first cloud of the white
smoke that began to appear and clear the air of the Syrian-American
relations."

"If President Bush's administration, through the policies of
injustice, occupation, and repression, failed to answer the historic
American question 'why do they hate us?' that was asked after 9/11,
then Mrs. Pelosi and her team, who are willing to uphold and
translate the true American values, are able, if they want, to make
the world once again yearn for America's culture and high ethical
values...."

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

"Back to Square One"

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

Thana al-Imam, a commentator in independent al-Watan, said (4/2):
"The statement that three US Republican Congressmen issued at the
end of a visit to Damascus was something like a slap in the face of
the hoped-for dialogue between Syria and the United States....

"The American statement contained no reference to the need to
achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region and strongly
supported President George Bush's strategy in Iraq.

"The congressmen called for stopping support for Hizbollah and
HAMAS, preventing fighters from crossing into Iraq, recognizing
Israel's right to live in peace, and refraining from intervening in
Lebanon.... This means that we are back to square one. For these
American demands have not changed for more than three years....

"The statement also achieved a US objective through the announcement
that the representatives met with Riyad Sayf, former People's
Assembly member, especially since the US administration allocated
funds to support the Syrian opposition, something that Damascus does
not view with satisfaction....

"Observers believe that the only positive thing in the Congressmen's
statement was their call for a strong diplomatic effort to address
the unresolved issues in the region. And even here, the Congressmen
failed to specify that the main problem in the region is the
Arab-Israeli conflict....

"The official Syrian report on the Representatives' meeting with
President Asad was very brief.... This proves that the US
Representatives' visit to Damascus was not as successful as was
hoped for.

"Pending the arrival in Damascus of Nancy Pelosi, it is clear that
Syria is left with no option but to wager on the contradictions
between the Republican Party, which controls the White House, and
the Democratic Party, which controls the Congress, to serve its
interests, especially through a search for solutions to the issue of
a just and comprehensive peace, to start with."

Corbin

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