October 10, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 2076

Spanish FM Moratinos During Visit to Syria, Lebanon: 'The Unipolar World [Order] Has Come to an End'; 'Syria Should Be Included in E.U. Framework'; 'I See [Syria] as My Home'

October 10, 2008
Syria, Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 2076
During his September 16-17, 2008 visit to Lebanon and Syria, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos praised "the positive and helpful role that Syria has played in Lebanon" and called on the E.U. to strengthen its ties with Syria. He added that Europe wished to play a role in the Middle East, alongside the U.S. and other countries, as part of a new, multipolar world order that will be taking shape over the coming years. He called the issue of Hizbullah's weapons an internal Lebanese affair, and accused Israel of violating U.N. Resolution 1701.

Following are excerpts from his statements to the media:

"Europe Recognizes Syria's Status and Role"

In an interview, Moratinos told Syrian TV: "Were it not for Syria's positive and helpful participation, the Doha Agreement and the steps that followed it would never have been achieved... Europe recognizes Syria's status and role, and that is why we are now seeing so many European foreign ministers lining up to visit Syria. As a matter of fact, all E.U. member states have good and positive relations with Syria."

On Spain's relations with Syria, Moratinos said: "There is nothing to prevent [us] from developing these relations, especially in this new era... In 2010, Spain will assume the E.U. presidency, and we must strengthen the strategic relations between Spain and Syria and include Syria in the E.U. framework. We share a long history and a rich culture, and there are many [potential] areas for cooperation between Spain and Syria.

"Spain has [always] believed in [the need to] negotiate with Syria. The attempt to isolate [this country] was a grave mistake, first of all, because it cannot be isolated, and second, because this was a policy aimed at preventing Syria from fulfilling its positive and helpful role in the best possible manner. Therefore, we have firmly insisted on our position in favor of negotiating with Syria and keeping the channels of dialogue open, and we have [indeed] managed to widen the [circle of] dialogue. Today, thanks to France's new position vis-à-vis Syria, the entire E.U. is warming to this country and strengthening its ties with it. These ties must be tightened and developed [still further]."

"The Unipolar World [Order] Has Come to an End"

On the U.S.'s role in the peace process, Moratinos said: "Naturally, it fulfills the role of a superpower, [for] the U.S. is still one of the leading [forces] in the world. However, the world is changing, and there are new forces, ways, and frameworks. As we come to launch initiatives and talks, we should not expect one superpower to unilaterally dictate and impose a certain agreement. Those times are over, and now we need the U.S. to take an active role alongside other countries that will [likewise] take an active role.

"Today, the E.U. wants to play a certain role and to undertake certain responsibilities in the global [arena]. This aspiration is shared by China and Russia, which now have a new position in the world. So we must not forget this new world order; we must adapt to the new balance [of power] that will emerge in the coming years.

"The unipolar world [order] has come to an end, as I have noticed in all my diplomatic activities. I have seen that countries and regions [now] shape their fate by themselves, without having to receive permission from Brussels, Washington or any other capital. This is a good [development], and its impact on the world will be a positive one."

Sarkozy "Created a New Situation And a New Role for Europe [in the Middle East]"

On Europe's role in the Middle East, Moratinos said: "Europe's interests are closely linked with those of the Middle East, and it is difficult to separate the two. Therefore, Europe has to be part of any solution or agreement [that will be reached]...

"[France], which is [currently] holding the E.U. presidency, is very active... Its president, [Nicolas] Sarkozy, initiated the Euro-Mediterranean summit, which was a great success... Europe is willing to help the sides find permanent solutions... The current French presidency of the E.U. has created a new situation and a new role for Europe in [the Middle East]."

Moratinos emphasized that his visit to Syria would "help to renew the Barcelona Process."(1) He added that since Syria always played an important role, it was crucial to cooperate with it in order to ensure the initiative's success.

Moratinos criticized aspects of Israel's policy, saying: "Israel's settlement policy, which has been condemned by the international community, by the E.U. and by Spain, is a serious obstacle to further talks... If this policy is not suspended, it will be difficult to continue the talks between Israel and the Palestinians and to reach a settlement regarding the 1967 borders... [Furthermore], Israel's continued construction of the security fence impedes the Palestinians' movement and does not contribute to the building of mutual trust."(2)

"We Managed To Unite All the Lebanese Behind Gen. Michel Suleiman"

Upon arriving in Damascus, Moratinos said that Spain had always emphasized "the helpful and central role that Syria [had played] in the Lebanese [national] conciliation... [By] investing considerable efforts," he added, "Syria and Spain managed to remove some of the obstacles [to this conciliation] and to obtain a satisfactory result... We managed to unite all the Lebanese behind Gen. Michel Suleiman."(3)

At a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Al-Mu'allem, Moratinos stated: "I have returned to [a place] I consider my home." He reiterated that Syria had facilitated the conciliation in Lebanon, both by promoting the inter-Lebanese dialogue and by calling upon France, Italy and Spain to contribute their own efforts in this matter. He added: "Today, we can look upon Lebanon's future with great optimism...(4) I remember that during my [previous] visit to Syria, on March 5, 2006, I said that it [would be] part of any solution in the region. Today I see that this was true, and I still believe it." (5)

"We Are Glad That There Is a Country [Like Syria] That Has Close Ties with Iran"

In response to a question about Iran's role in the region, Moratinos said: "We understand and respect [the fact] that Iran has a role to play in the Middle East, but Iran must be committed to [obeying] the international law... We are glad that there is a country [like Syria] that has close ties with Iran, and can [therefore] help to reach understandings [with it]. We are in favor of understandings and diplomacy."(6)

Hizbullah's Weapons Are An Internal Lebanese Affair

At a press conference during his visit to Lebanon, Moratinos emphasized that the issue of Hizbullah's weapons was an internal Lebanese affair that would be discussed as part of the national Lebanese dialogue. He added that the Lebanese would have to find suitable solutions by themselves, stating that "Hizbullah is one of the political players in Lebanon and part of the [Lebanese] government."

U.N. Resolution 1701 Has Not Yet Been Implemented Due to Israel's Violations, Additional Obstacles

Referring to U.N. Resolution 1701, Moratinos said: "The international force – including the Spanish battalion – has been doing what it can to implement Resolution 1701, which has not yet been fully implemented due to continued violations by Israel and additional obstacles that we have encountered on the ground. That said, I am glad [to report] that we have had some successes in this area."(7)

(1) The Barcelona Process (also known as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership) was launched at the 1995 Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean Conference, and is aimed at strengthening the ties between the E.U. and the Mediterranean countries.
(2) Al-Thawra (Syria), September 18, 2008.
(3) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 18, 2008.
(4) Al-Ba'th (Syria), September 18, 2008.
(5) Al-Watan (Syria), September 18, 2008.
(6) Al-Watan (Syria), September 18, 2008.
(7) Al-Nahar (Lebanon), September 17, 2008.

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