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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 09:54, November 22, 2006
Normalization of ties with Iraq gives Syria more say with U.S.
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Syria's agreement to normalize ties with neighboring Iraq after a quarter century's rupture would gave Damascus more say in dealing with Washington, analysts here said on Tuesday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem, the first Syrian minister who visited Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Tuesday signed an agreement in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshiar al-Zebari to restore full diplomatic relations.

Syria and Iraq severed diplomatic ties in the 1980s when Damascus sided with Tehran in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Syrian political analyst Nazir al-Azzimeh told Xinhua, "The normalization came at a right time, which would impel the United States to face and open dialogue with Syria on Iraq."

"Problems affecting Iraq would definitely affect Syria and it is true vice versa. Any policy that ignore the fact will not succeed," said Azzimeh.

The U.S. administration has rejected any direct engagement of Damascus in solving Middle East issues, including Iraq, where violence has become a daily headache for the U.S. forces there.

Washington has long been accusing Syria of supporting terrorism and doing little in stopping anti-U.S. militants from crossing its border into Iraq.

Syria has insisted that it is almost impossible to control its long and porous border with Iraq and demanded more measures from the Iraqi side to patrol the border.

In Tuesday's accord, Syria and Iraq decided to cooperate in the field of security and agreed that the U.S. troops should stay in Iraq for now and gradually withdraw once they were not needed.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem, whose country strongly opposed to the U.S.-led war and occupation in Iraq, had earlier called for the setting of a timetable for the withdrawal of 140, 000 U.S. troops.

The White house, however, said on Tuesday that Syria should follow words with actions, show commitment to "constructive engagement" with the Iraqi government and stop the flow of foreign fighters across its border with Iraq.

Analysts said that if Damascus really does what it has offered, Washington will surely be under pressure to respond.

U.S. President George W. Bush has already got into a heat to change course in Iraq after his Republican party lost both houses of the Congress in the mid-term election which was interpreted as voters' anger over his Iraq policies.

Bush is also awaiting a report next month by a bipartisan Iraq Study Group headed by former secretary of state James Baker on a new Iraq approach, in which Baker is expected to recommend direct dialogue with both Damascus and Tehran.

Meanwhile, Bush's closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, also called for talks with the two countries.

Political analyst Hayeesam al-Maliha said, "The restoration of diplomatic ties between Syria and Iraq ... is due to changes in the international and regional situations, especially that Syria noticed positive signals from inside the U.S. government."

"As America could not break away from its plight in Iraq, it began to seek outlet from Iraq's neighbors," added Maliha.

His view was echoed by Syrian lawmaker Mohammed Habbash, who said that "changes in the Mideast situation would force the United States to change its policies in the region, particularly in Iraq. "

Source: Xinhua

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