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Home >> World
UPDATED: 08:53, December 05, 2006
Roundup: German FM urges Syria to play constructive role in region
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German Foreign Minister Frank- Walter Steinmeier on Monday urged Syria to play a constructive role in helping stabilize Lebanon and promoting the peace process during a brief visit here.

The German top diplomat, on the last leg of his four-day Middle East tour, met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his deputy Farouk al-Shara and Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in his hours- long trip.

At a joint press conference with Muallem, Steinmeier called on Damascus to help stabilize Lebanon "directly or indirectly", where an open-ended rally led by the Shiite Hezbollah movement aiming to bring down the incumbent government enters the fourth day Monday.

He also called upon all parties to exert every effort to prevent increased violence in Lebanon, saying the situation there is "fragile."

The Lebanese political rift deepened Monday after the killing of a pro-Syrian Shiite Muslim demonstrator, raising fears that anti-government protests could turn into sectarian violence.

It was reported that Steinmeier urged Syria in talks with Muallem to persuade Hezbollah to end the demonstrations.

Syria, a supporter of Hezbollah and a former power broker in Lebanon, was forced to withdraw its troops from its smaller neighbor over its alleged role in last year's assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri.

A UN probe has implicated senior Syrian officials in the murder, but Damascus denied any role of involvement.

Meanwhile, the German top diplomat also urged Syria to exert influence on the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which also enjoys Syria's support, to help promote the Middle East peace process.

"Syria is an important player in the region but it needs to play a constructive role to ensure German involvement," Steinmeier said.

Palestinian political situation was caught in a deadlock again after the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), dominated by President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, announced Friday the suspension of talks with Hamas over the formation of a unity government and called for the resignation of the incumbent Prime Minister Ismail Haneya.

For his part, Muallem urged Germany to play a decisive role in helping to solve the region's conflicts when it takes the presidencies of the EU and Group of Eight next year.

"We back a peace process based on the principle of exchanging land for peace. There is a narrow window of opportunity for peace that the international community should make use of," Muallem said.

Muallem also criticized what he called "efforts to isolate" his country, saying "there are parties in the world who have isolated Syria but we want solid relations with every country in the world, especially Germany, based on common understanding and noninterference in (each other's) internal affairs."

Leading Western powers have sought to isolate Damascus following Hariri's murder, but the isolation eased this summer as the European is increasingly seeing Damascus as a key player to solutions of the complicated conflicts in the Middle East.

According to the official SANA news agency, President Assad told Steinmeier in their meeting that Syria "is part of the solution, not the problem in the region".

Assad said Syria do not interfere with others' internal affairs and reasserted the importance of dialogue among countries to solve differences, SANA said.

And Shara said in a separate meeting with Steinmeier that Syria was ready to cooperate with all parties concerned in order to achieve stability and security in the Middle East.

Shara also criticized the "wrong policies" of some big powers, blaming the current regional impasse on those big powers' negligence over the fundamental problems in the region.

Steinmeier arrived here earlier in the day in a trip which had taken him to Amman, the West Bank, Gaza, Beirut, Cyprus, and Jerusalem.

Steinmeier is the first senior German official to visit Syria in more than two years. He cancelled a planned trip at the last minute in August after President Bashar al-Assad made a speech blaming the United States as a trouble in the region.

Source: Xinhua

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