France’s Participation in Syrian-Israeli Negotiations to Improve Sarcozy’s Authority in Middle East – Experts

Politics Materials 19 June 2008 19:42 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, 19 June / Trend corr E. Tariverdiyeva U. Sadikhova, R. Abdullayev, R. Hafizoglu/ Voluntary particpation of offical Paris in Syrian-Israeli negotiations will restore Syrian-French relationships and will imrpove the authority of Nicolas Sarcozy in Middle East.

"Under President Sarkozy, France is certainly re-asserting itself on the diplomatic scene. Since France has traditionally had close relations with Syria, it is not unusual for Paris to act as an intermediary between Damascus and third parties," David W. Lesch, Professor of Middle East History at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said at the French Parliament on 17 June that he would personally care for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar al-Asad to launch negotiations between Syria and Israel.

Lesch said the block in French-Syrian relations over the past several years has been Lebanon, and what France has considered Syrian meddling in Lebanese affairs.

"Sarkozy is utlizing the Mediterranean Union meeting in mid-July as an opportunity to move Israeli-Syrian talks forward by possibly arranging a sideline meeting between Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (or with Israeli President Shimon Peres)," Lesch said to Trend via e-mail.

According to Lesch, Syrian influence in brokering the Doha agreement regarding power-sharing in Lebanon opened the door for the re-establishment of French-Syrian diplomatic cooperation.

"As others have, France realized that the Hizbullah victory in the recent Lebanese crisis, cemented in the Doha agreement, solidified Syrian influence in Lebanon," Lesch said.

According to the independent Syrian politician, Husni Mahali, with its participation in these talks, France tries to revive its previous influence in the Middle East, especially in Syria.

"France and Britain have always had influence in the Middle East since termination of Ottoman supremacy here in 1917," Mahali reported to Trend by telephone from Turkey on 19 June.

According to him, France's presence in these talks is a special moment. "Nikolai Sarkozy, who has European origin, assumed this peacekeeping mission in order to increase his image amongst the Jews," Mahali said.

Turkey's role in this issue is also of importance. The Turkish specialist on the Middle East, Mustafa Ozjan, considers that Turkey's participation in the talks between Syria and Israel has already brought initial benefits, and the sides commenced talks with the mediation of Ankara.  

"France's wish to act as a mediator in the relations between Syria and Israel is dictated by the issue that Paris wants to strengthen its strategy with Damascus," Ozjan reported to Trend via telephone on 19 June. 

The Leader of Israeli Herut Party, Michael Kleiner, considers that Israel is willing that exactly Ankara make mediation contribution in the Israeli-Syrian relations because Turkey has special historical role in the region and well understands Israel's interests in this protracted Israeli-Syrian conflict. 

Professor Lesch considers that this could shift the brokering role from Turkey to France, which would give more of an international imprimatur to the talks as well as bring them closer to the possibility of acquiring U.S. sanction, particularly when a new presidential administration takes office in Washington in January 2009.

"As such, a strong French mediating role could be more productive," the Professor said.

According to Lesch, France has always tried to have a certain amount of ambiguity in its position between the United States and countries such as Syria and Iran. This ambiguity has allowed France to dis-engage and re-engage more easily with Syria.

According to Ozjan, direct U.S. participation in this process is impossible because there are tense relations between Damascus and Washington. "However, to establish stability in the region, it does not need to fully exclude the role of the USA," the specialist said.

According to politician Mahali, currently through mediation of the USA, the French Government tries to re-establish its influence in Syria and Lebanon, as well as strengthen supremacy over Kurds in the north of Iraq in the city of Arbile. 

"Syria takes an important place in the region, and therefore, France wants to play greater role than Turkey in the talks between Syria and Israel," Mahali said.

As for the truce between Syria and Israel, according to the Turkish political scientist, the peace agreement with Israel will not be concluded unless the Israelis will not liberate the Golan Heights, which was occupied by Israel during the war in 1967.

"Israel must change its policy towards the Arabian countries and to give complete independence to the Palestinian state, as well as to liberate Jerusalem. Correspondingly, without of these three conditions no peace negotiations to be reached," he said.

According to Mustafa Ozcan, it is early to speak about the results of the negotiations between Syria and Israel, as the sides put impossible demands before each other.

"At present, one of the relevant Israel's demands to Syria is to stop the relations with Hezbollah and Hamas organizations, as well as to suspend the military cooperation with Iran. I believe that the negotiations between Syria and Israel are merely a political speculation," Ozcan said.

Michael Kleiner,Leader of the Israeli Herut party, believes that Israel could and prepared to the peace with its Arabian neighbors including Syria. However, there are many dubious issues in this process. According to the Israeli politician, Syria's aspiration to create the nuclear reactor through the help of Korea and Iran is one of the issues.

"Alongside with this Syria develops its strategic relations with Iran and terrorist organization Hezbollah, which is to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, that hinders the peace negotiations between Israel and Syria," Kleiner told Trend .

According to the representative of Israeli right camp, many Israelis were not prepared to return the Golan Heights to Syria.

"The one compromise version may become the peace agreement between China and Hong Kong, i.e. Syria to lease Israel the territories of the Golan Heights for 100 years," the Israeli politician stated.  

According to Kleiner, in spite of Israel in 1967, occupying the Golan Heights did not kill a man out of 20,000 of people in the territory, today, Syria threats to displace Israelis from the Heights.

After murdering of Rafik Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, in February 2005, many west countries suspected Syria of connection with Hariri's death. Jasques Chirac, the then President of France, decided to suspend the contacts with high ranking officials of Syria unless   it will begin cooperation to investigate this case with the international community. 

Taking the office Nicola Sarkozy has restored the dialogue with the high ranking officials of Syria. However, later Sarkozy made a decision to suspend this dialogue unless Syria will start to assist to reach essential progress in regulation of the situation in Lebanon.

In May, 2007, after all Lebanese sides achieved agreement on election of a new President in Lebanon, Sarcozy on his own initiative proposed Syrian President Bashar al-Asad to discuss the situation in Lebanon, Syrian-Israeli peace process and Mediterranean Union program proposed by France.

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