Syrian ambassador discusses relations with U.S.
November 8, 2007 6:50 PM
With chuckles from the audience, Syria’s Ambassador peeled off the axis of evil label and presented his version of the truth about Middle East politics Wednesday night at the Commonwealth Club.
“Syria is not an enemy of the U.S.,” said Imad Moustapha, Syrian Ambassador to the United States. “Syria has been put in the black books of this administration. They have decided that we are your enemies when we don’t believe we are your enemies.”
In addition, Moustapha said Syria is interested in fostering a dialogue with the United States, but he said his nation is resigned to the reality that it’s not going to happen with the current administration.
“(This) deterioration of relations is unprecedented in modern history,” Moustapha said. Until the last two terms, every major head of the United States visited Syria, including Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, he said.
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) bucked that trend earlier this year, when she defied the White House, toured Damascus and spoke with Syrian heads of state.
“The level of engagement was very serious,” Moustapha said, adding that after returning home from her trip, Pelosi encouraged President Bush to speak directly with Syria instead of using foreign nations as intermediaries.
And despite reports from credible news sources in the U.S. that Syria has a bomb project in the pipelines, Moustapha said Syria is not acquiring nuclear technology. Syria refuses to let the U.S. use nuclear activity as leverage for invasion and occupation, he said.
“We understand the U.S. has double standards,” Moustapha said, “and we know the gates of hell will open on Syria (if we build a nuclear bomb).”
“There is hope in the Middle East,” Moustapha said, as he pointed to the pan-Arab initiative, a deal set forth by a coalition of Arab countries nearly a decade ago. The initiative recognizes the official boundaries of the Israeli state, he said, but it requires Israel to leave all of its occupied territories in the Middle East.
Moustapha also said there’s lot of talk about a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland later on this year, but Syria hasn’t been invited yet, he said. Rumors circulating among political officials indicate that discussing the Golan region would be off limits, he added.
Kristina Stangl, 22, an international relations major/Middle Eastern studies minor at SF State attending the forum, said it’s important for young people to take an interest in establishing diplomatic ties with the Middle East, to improve relations.
“There’s a lack of diplomacy…of dialogue,” Stangl said. “This is our key issue, diplomacy and negotiation. If two parties are not coming to the table, the problem can not be solved.”
Moustapha put it another way: “Let us evolve…let democracy evolve from within. Don’t export your values and your wonderful political system (to a nation faced with enough internal strife already).”
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