Syria has differed with the anti-India resolution passed by the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and said the Kashmir dispute should be resolved through direct talks between India and Pakistan.
Acknowledging India as a major international player, Syria also sought New Delhi's role in the Middle East peace process and backed the country's claim for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
Visiting Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Thursday said his country did not subscribe to the anti-India resolutions passed by the OIC on Kashmir. "We have different views (than OIC) on the issue and we have never criticised India," he said. Al-Assad said the Kashmir issue did not figure during his talks with the Indian leaders, including President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "We think the issue is between India and Pakistan and it should be resolved through direct talks between the two countries," he said.
Supporting India claim for a permanent seat in the Security Council, Al-Assad said Syria favoured comprehensive UN reforms and its expansion. "A country like India, with a billion-plus population, surely deserves to be a permanent member of the Security Council," he added.
Underlining that India enjoyed an excellent rapport with all Middle East stakeholders, including the United States and Israel, as well as the Arab nations, Al-Assad said it gave New Delhi credibility to play a key role in the peace process. "India has good relations with both the US and Israel and anyone who wants to play a role has to have that credibility. India has that credibility because of its traditional support for the Arab cause as well as good relations with Israel," he said.
Full of praise for India, Al-Assad pointed out that New Delhi had always supported the Palestine cause and never ignored its traditional friendship with the Arab world, even while pursuing better ties with the US and Israel. "This is why we feel India, like Turkey, is well-placed to play a role in the Middle East peace process," he said.
In the recent past, Turkey has hosted several rounds of talks between Syria and Israel. Describing these talks as "a positive development", Al-Assad said Israel's offer to hold talks with Lebanon and its truce with the Hamas offered a glimmer of hope for peace in the region. "We hope India will encourage Israel to actively take part in these pace talks," he said.
However, Al-Assad ruled out direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the sidelines of an international summit in Paris next month. The two leaders will be guests of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is to announce the launch of a new Mediterranean Union on July 13. "This is not like drinking tea," Al-Assad said, adding, "Such high-level meeting will be meaningless unless substantial progress is made in the ongoing indirect talks hosted by Turkey."
He said Syria was ready to cooperate with anyone, including the US, for ushering in peace in the region but would not become anybody's "puppet". Attacking the US for its policy on Iraq, he warned that disintegration of the Arab country will have a domino effect that could lead to chaos in the region.
On his talks with the Indian Prime Minister, Al-Assad said they discussed ways to push bilateral relations, including in trade and economic fields, with particular focus on energy, IT and fertilisers. The two leaders also talked about the scourge of terrorism and ways to cooperate in fighting it.
Source: The Pioneer, India