DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s talks with Bashar Assad in Damascus will be joined Thursday, Sept. 4, by Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar ruler Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar.
Their meeting on Middle East issues will end by calling on Israel to clear the way for peace by agreeing to cede the Golan to Syria.
DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources note: In view of the Olmert government’s paralysis in external affairs, the four leaders will be free to shunt Israel’s interests aside and endorse the Syrian position – even as the French and Turkish leaders pose as friends of the Jewish state.
Sarkozy holds the rotating European Union presidency, the Turkish prime minister has acted as mediator for a series of indirect Israeli-Syrian peace talks, the fourth of which ended in July, and the Qatari ruler is head of the Gulf Cooperation Council and key architect of the Doha accord for sharing power in Lebanon under the Iran-backed Hizballah’s domination.
A draft of the final communiqué prepared in Damascus for the four-way summit sets the price for face-to-face peace talks with Syria as Israel’s prior commitment to withdraw from Golan.
Sarkozy’s Damascus visit is part of his effort, which has won a nod from Washington, to end Syria’s alienation from the West over its violent meddling in Lebanon and sponsorship of terror. Assad is playing his part by temporarily banishing to Khartoum his permanent house guest in Damascus, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, until after the summit. Hamas institutions and headquarters remain in Damascus.
The French information machine is also playing its part. For two weeks, accounts have leaked from Paris to American and European media extolling Assad for his pursuit of peace, frustrated solely by Israel’s intransigence on the Golan.
Ahead of the French president’s visit to Damascus, reputable US commentators close to his government have taken to portraying the Syrian ruler as “extremely concerned” by the spread of radical Islamic terror in his country and convinced he needs peace to remove the threat hanging over his regime.
They all slide around the facts of Assad’s active sponsorship of terrorist elements in Iraq and among the Palestinians over many years, his close ties with the Lebanese Hizballah, and the freedom of action they all enjoy in Syria.
The success of Sarkozy’s master plan to transform the deleterious Syrian-Iranian alliance into “normal relations” is presented by these correspondents as hinging on Israel’s willingness to relinquish the Golan enclave, captured in 1967 after the Syrian invasion. That act would allow a bridge of friendship be built between the West and Tehran.
Officials in Jerusalem are not complaining about the way Israel is being treated as a compliant non-player, whose vital interests can be bought and sold over its head. After all, prime minister Ehud Olmert cheered when the French president reinstated Assad on the international stage, hoping he would end his term in office with a handshake with the Syrian ruler.