NEW YORK: Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Washington’s problem with Syria is not a lack of communication between the two governments, but Syria’s habit of dabbling in terrorist activities throughout the Middle East.
At an event hosted by the New York City Asia Society, Burns said Washington’s isolation of Syria has put the country “in the deep freeze.”
“They’re not going to derive the benefits of a normal political or economic relationship with the Sunni Arab states, or with the EU states or with the U.S. as long as they continue to be caught in the nexus of terrorism, along with Iran, in supporting those major Middle East terrorist groups that have such a negative effect on Israel, the Palestinians and Lebanon,” he said Monday.
The U.S has had a problematic relationship with Damascus in recent years, with Washington accusing Syria of trying to undermine the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, which is dominated by opponents of Syria.
“What most of us are trying to do is look for solutions to the problems in the Middle East, and what Syria and Iran appear to be doing is looking to divide, and looking to create and instigate conflict,” Burns said.
Syria is part of the Islamic terrorism problem, in other words.
I wonder: Is Burns’ statement not just a signal to Syria, but also to the Baker-Hamilton group, that the Bush administration isn’t keen on negotiating with Syria over Iraq?
France and the United States agree there is no point in talking to Syria because the conditions for an honest dialogue do not exist, French President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday.
Chirac’s comments come a day after U.S. National Security Adviser Steven Hadley said that there was no point in Israel holding negotiations with Syria as long as Damascus continues to support and facilitate terrorism.
U.S. President George W. Bush is under strong domestic pressure to talk to Syria and Iran in an effort to reduce sectarian violence and avert civil war in Iraq.
Well, I’d say there is some signal-sending going on. From the administration’s point of view, negotiating with Syria over Iraq seems to be a non-starter. Good.