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Cablegate: Palestinian Territories, Syria/Iran, Asad/ Referendum,

VZCZCXYZ0025
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0470/01 1371340
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171340Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3488
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 6805
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4530
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3154
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 7674
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1751
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 5085
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1291
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7416

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000470

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: Palestinian Territories, Syria/Iran, Asad/ Referendum,
Iraq, Rice, Syria/US (5/17)


1. Summary: Syrian papers on May 17 featured an official Syrian
statement issued on May 16 expressing Syria's deep concern about the
bloody clashes among Palestinians in Gaza. "Fighting among
Palestinians comes at a time when they must close ranks and boost
national unity in the framework of the Mecca Accord in order to
confront the expansionist Israeli occupation which continues to
swallow Palestinian lands, above all, Jerusalem," the official
statement noted. It added, "Syria calls for an immediate cease-fire
among Palestinians to prevent bloodshed and bury sedition, in order
to maintain the centrality of the Palestinian issue in Arab and
international public opinion."

Papers also reported Foreign Minister Mouallem's meeting on May 16
with Iranian FM Mottaki on the sidelines of the meeting of the
Organization of Islamic Conference in Islamabad. Talks focused on
bilateral relations and the latest developments in the occupied
Palestinian territories. Talks also reiterated the importance of
intensifying efforts to achieve national reconciliation in Iraq and
to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

On Syrian-Russian relations, papers cited a statement in Moscow on
May 16, by Yevgeny Primakov, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and
Industry in Russia, describing President Asad as a prominent
political leader with a deep strategic vision in dealing with
regional issues and international relations. Primakov, a former
Russian PM, said, "Recent events have proven that President Asad was
defending Syria's interests and seeking to boost the country's role
in the region." On Middle East issues, he called on Israel to
implement the requirements of the Arab peace initiative, especially
the land-for-peace principle, which means, for Syria, restoration of
the occupied Golan. Primakov added that Syrian-Russian relations
are progressing in all domains, particularly in the economic field.

Syrian papers continued to publish reports, articles, and interviews
showing support for President Asad and highlighting Syria's
achievements under his rule in anticipation of the forthcoming
public referendum on his nomination for a new 7-year term in
office.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"Foreign Minister Mouallem discusses bilateral relations and latest
developments in the occupied Palestinian territories with Iranian FM
Mottaki" (Government-owned Tishreen, 5/17)

"FM Mouallem and Iranian FM Mottaki reiterate the necessity for
continuing consultation and coordination between the two friendly
countries to realize security and stability in the region"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 5/16)

"Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Russia, Yevgeny
Primakov: President Asad is the best political leader in defending
Syria's interests" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 5/17)

"Syrian Official Source: Syria watches with deep concern the bloody
clashes among the Palestinian brothers in Gaza. The source calls on
Palestinians to adopt the language of dialogue and reason"
(Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 5/17)

"Ceasefire in reached between Fatah and Hamas. 14 Palestinians
killed in Gaza yesterday. Damascus calls for immediate ceasefire;
the world community denounces infighting" (Independent al-Watan,
5/17)

"The visit to Beirut by US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern
Affairs, David Welch, unveils reality of American intervention"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 5/17)

"An Israeli draft resolution at the Knesset calling for a popular
referendum on any decision on withdrawal from the Golan"
(Independent al-Watan, 5/17)

"Violence reaps the lives of 80 Iraqis. Iraq rejects an Islamic
peace-keeping force" (Independent al-Watan, 5/17)


3. Editorial Block Quotes:

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

"Referendum, Dedication of Nationalism"

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

Dr. Sa'id Musallam, a columnist in government-owned Al-Thawra, wrote
(5/17): "The referendum on Al-Asad's new term acquires exceptional
importance this time because it represents the major strategic
option of Syria and the region....

"Al-Asad is the guarantee of stability, security, and calm for
Syria's generations in the present and the future.... Al-Asad has
confronted with a great deal of wisdom and ability the attempts to
bring Syria to its knees."

"'Yes' to Al-Asad means yes to national sovereignty, national unity,
and adherence to the resistance option and the liberation of the
occupied territories...."

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

"Constancy in a Variable World"

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

Isam Dari, Chief Editor of government-owned Tishreen, wrote (5/17):
"Despite all the international storms and changes that have driven
even superpowers to submit fully or partially to the will of the
United States, Syria, thanks to a farsighted political vision, has
managed to overcome the ordeals and crises at minimal loss and
without budging an iota from its positions, policies, and national
and pan-Arab principles, which were the reason behind all those
pressures, threats, accusations, sanctions, and attempts to isolate
it....

"Syria today is stronger and more secure and stable.... Attempts to
isolate Syria have failed and the world is now reopening doors of
dialogue with Damascus in light of its status, role, and weight as
an important regional country that cannot be ignored....

"Syria has achieved all this thanks to its national unity, its
rational, objective, and farsighted political decisions, and the
cohesion between the popular base and the enlightened political
leadership represented by President Asad...."

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

"Between Two Projects"

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

Khalid al-Ashhab, en editorialist in government-owned Al-Thawra,
wrote (5/17): "Syria's confrontation of the American campaign
against it and the region in the past few years was balanced and
patient.... Syria, in this confrontation, remained committed to
national and pan-Arab principles and sought to create a deep and
effective crack in the American plan through resistance and by
depriving the American occupation of stability and a sense of
security....

"In Iraq, the American military and human bleeding have increased
despite all the successive security plans, convincing the Americans
that their plan there is definitely losing. In Lebanon, the valiant
resistance succeeded in dispelling the aspects and pictures of the
American and Israeli military superiority, and indeed in defeating
the entire plan, not only obstructing it....

"Today, the American plan publicly continues its retreat in the Arab
region and even inside the United States politically and
ideologically, while Syria continues to score successes and
dismantle the structures of the American-Zionist siege around
it...."


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

"The Arab Initiative is the Bottom Line for Negotiations"

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

Dr. Mahdi Dakhlallah, former Information Minister, commented in
Tishreen(5/17): "It is surprising that Arabs, who offered a peace
initiative that included the minimum Arab demands and rights, now
appear willing to negotiate this plan with Israel....

"Negotiations mean offering concessions. We wonder if Arabs are
willing to go below the level of their peace initiative.... It is
dangerous to relinquish the Palestinian right of return, for
example....

"It is strange that some Arabs are more Americanized than Americans
and are willing to offer more concessions than what Israel itself
can ask for....

"We wonder where ignorance will lead Arabs."

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

"Rice in Moscow: an Impossible Mission"

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

Hanan Hamad, a commentator in government-owned Tishreen, wrote
(5/17): "US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's mission in Moscow
is not at all easy in light of President Putin's recent
anti-American positions and statements....

"Washington does not have the ability to pressure Moscow, as it now
needs Russia's support with regard to the Iranian nuclear file and
other issues in the Security Council...."

Corbin

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