Syria urged to take constructive role in Mideast peace process

By Xinhua

Berlin : German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday urged Syria to play a constructive role in the Middle East peace process and stressed that Syria has to use its influence in Lebanon to solve the political crisis.

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Steinmeier made the remarks after meeting with visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.

According to a news release on the website of the German Foreign Ministry, Steinmeier told a news conference that Syria can satisfy its own interests by actively participating in the Middle East peace process.

The international community expects that Syria will use what influence it has over Hamas to ensure that the militant group in control of the Gaza Strip does not disrupt attempts at peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he added.

The German foreign minister also called on Syria to make a contribution to the stability of the Lebanese situation, saying Syria will play an important role in solving Lebanon’s political crisis.

Moualem said peace and stability in the Middle East region is the first priority of Syria, but Israel still occupies the Golan Heights.

He said at present there are 1.5 million Iraqi refugees and 500,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria. The Israel-Lebanon conflict in summer 2006 also caused 250,000 refugees to flee to his country. Therefore, peace in the Middle East region is linked withthe fundamental interests of Syria.

Moualem said Syria is willing to establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon in principle under the precondition of Lebanon ending the crisis and electing a new president to form a government.

The Lebanese presidential chair has been vacant since former President Emile Lahoud ended his term on Nov. 24, and the sharply-divided Lebanese parliament has delayed the elections of the new president 12 times due to failure to reach a consensus.