Cablegate: Asad Nomination/Referendum, Mouallem, Syria/France,
DE RUEHDM #0456/01 1360704
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 160704Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
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DEPARTMENT FOR PA, NEA/ARN, INR/IC/CD, INR/R/MR:STHIBEAULT AND
JMCCARTER, VOA NEWS CA, NEA/PPD:CBOURGEOIS, AZAIBACK, AND
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TAGS: KMDR PREL KPAO OPRC SY
SUBJECT: Asad Nomination/Referendum, Mouallem, Syria/France,
Syria/Russia, Iraq, Blair, Palestinian Territories, Peace Process
1. Summary: The press campaign for President Asad's second term in
office continues, with papers publishing articles and reports
praising his policies and noting Syria's accomplishments under his
rule. A curious electoral sidelight is the report on the website of
the opposition National Salvation Front that a would-be opposition
presidential candidate has filed papers to become a presidential
Papers reported FM Mouallem's meeting in Brussels on May 14 with
the Committee for "Activating the Arab Peace Initiative" and the
European Union's Foreign Ministers' Council. In these meetings
Mouallem renewed Syria's commitment to achieve a just and
comprehensive peace, based on the Madrid Conference and the Arab
Peace Initiative, and said that Arab-EU cooperation restores hope in
the possibility of realizing peace. He expressed hope that "efforts
can shift words to deeds; the factor of time is particularly
important in this regard." Arab Ministers referred to the
importance of the international community helping find a solution to
the Arab-Israeli conflict without imposing criteria that distinguish
one party from another. They added that the international community
has to oblige Israel to stop practices aiming at changing reality,
including building of settlements and separation walls and
excavations under the al-Aqsa mosque. Later, FM Mouallem held
separate closed-door meetings in Brussels with the German and
Norwegian Foreign Ministers, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jonas Gahr
Stre, about resuming the peace process.
Papers also reported FM Mouallem's meeting in Brussels on May 14
with British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett. They discussed
relations between Syria and Britain and developments in the Middle
East, particularly in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon. The importance
of Iraq's unity and independence and of achieving security and
stability in the country, and the need to achieve national
reconciliation were emphasized. With regard to the Arab-Israel
conflict and the Arab peace plan, the two sides stressed the need to
implement relevant Security Council resolutions and the importance
of working to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region,
as this serves the interests of all parties. They also discussed
the need to urge all Lebanese parties to overcome the existing
crisis in Lebanon. FM Mouallem had similar discussions on May 14
with Spanish FM Miguel Angel Moratinos.
On Syrian-French relations, papers reported PM Ottri's meeting on
May 14 with Lucien Bitterlin, Chairman of the Arab-French Solidarity
Association. Talks focused on the latest regional and international
developments and on relations of friendship and culture between the
Syrian and French peoples.
Papers also featured a statement in Moscow on May 14 by Anatoly
Yogorin, Chairman of the Scientific Center for Russian-Arab
Dialogue, to the Syrian Arab News Agency, praising Syria's foreign
policy under President Asad. He said that recent developments have
shown that the US has begun to recognize the correctness of Syrian
positions, referring to the meeting of Foreign Minister Mouallem
with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Sharm al-Sheikh.
"The time has come for Washington to engage in dialogue with Syria,
which has a policy of peace and plays a pivotal role in the region,"
End of summary.
2. Selected Headlines:
"Political and media figures and circles renew their appreciation of
Syria's Policy: President Asad is leader of the national project
and most capable to pursue a victorious march" (Government-owned
"An unprecedented incident: Syrian lawyer nominates himself for the
presidency" (Free Syria Website, 5/15)
"In Brussels, Foreign Minister Mouallem meets British Spanish,
German and Norwegian Foreign Ministers. Mouallem expresses hope
that efforts can shift words to deeds. Muoallem confirms:
Syrian-European cooperation revives hope for achieving peace"
(Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 5/15)
"Chairman of the Scientific Center for Russian-Arab Dialogue,
Anatoly Yogorin: Syria deserves congratulations for renewing
President Asad's presidency" (Government-owned Tishree, 5/15)
"PM Ottri discusses regional and international developments with
Lucien Bitterlin, Chairman of the Arab-French Solidarity
Association" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 5/15)
"Ten US and Danish soldiers killed and injured in Iraq"
(Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 5/15)
"Palestinian Minister of Interior Kawasmeh submits his resignation.
Hanieh serves as Interior Minister until a replacement is named.
The Palestinian Authority warns against a conspiracy to separate the
West Bank from the Palestinian Territories. Perets: Occupying the
Gaza Strip is a matter of time" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 5/15)
3. Editorial Block Quotes:
"A New Stage for a Better Future"
Dr. Ibrahim Zu'ayr, a commentator in government-owned Al-Thawrah,
wrote (5/15): "President Asad spent seven years of nonstop work to
change and develop Syria toward new hopes for a better future.
"Syrians have the right to be proud that their President Asad
expresses their ambitions for a homeland regaining the last inch of
its occupied Golan, a homeland that has always been too strong to be
harmed from within or from outside, a homeland standing fast in the
face of the strong black winds that blow from every direction....
"The Syrian people will today say yes to a new presidential term for
their president, who, with his mind and wisdom, embodies the hopes
of Arabs for unity against the Zionist tyrants and their American
"A Later Frost"
An unsigned editorial in independent English-language monthly "Syria
Today" (May, 2007) reads: "The last month has been something of
curate's egg. On the international front Syria received visits from
high-profile figures including the Speaker of US House of
Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and the new head of the UN Ban
Ki-Moon. After years of isolation, Syria seems to be making strides
to rehabilitate its reputation in the West although the
international tribunal on the assassination of former Lebanese PM
Rafki al-Hariri, is an ongoing blot on Syria's half-year report
"Domestically, however, Syria has witnessed lackluster parliamentary
elections. The ruling Baath Party built on its entrenched position
and voter turnout was far higher than expected (56 percent), but the
contest was largely characterized by a certain froideur....
"With an eye on the Presidential referendum, which is expected to be
held by the end of the month, the fact that the National Progressive
Front increased its majority in the People's Assembly should pave
the way for a triumphant renewal of President Asad's mandate for a
Izz-al-Din al-Darwish, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen,
commented (5/15): "The US Administration made a mistake from the
very beginning when it launched the war on Iraq, made another
mistake in the management of the occupation in the past four years,
and is now making a bigger mistake in the way it is addressing its
"Syria was the first country to warn against the perils of the Iraq
invasion.... President Asad was the first to warn against sinking in
the Iraqi mud, and the American officials definitely remember
"Syria's warning was based on its direct contact with the affairs of
the region and wide and accurate knowledge of the Iraqi situation
and its domestic complications....
"Syria has always worked to help Iraqis overcome their suffering....
Today Syria hosts about 2 million Iraqis who have fled the inferno
in their country...."
"Wishes Are Insufficient to Achieve Peace"
Ali Sawahah, a commentator in government-owned Al-Thawrah, wrote
(5/15): "Peace has never been Israel's choice, because Israel was
created in the heart of the Arab region by the West in general, not
to be a message of civilization, fairness, and development for the
peoples of the region, but to be, as it has proven since its
creation, a message of treachery and coercion to tear this nation
"Arabs have no confidence that the United States and Europe can
apply any pressure on Israel to force it to accept a just
"Fall of Last Ally"
Nadya Dimyati, a columnist in government-owned Al-Thawrah, wrote
(5/15): "Tony Blair is the latest European leader to pay the price
of the alliance with Washington....
"Blair supported the United States and Israel in the criminal July
war against Lebanon and ignored calls by most of his party leaders
for a cease-fire....
"The phantom of war will haunt Blair, who left a heavy legacy for