US envoy pushes Syria for Mideast peace

US envoy pushes Syria for Mideast peace

The American Middle East envoy said Syria’s role in the Middle East peace efforts are vital amid antagonism over Washington’s unwavering support for Israel and ignoring Palestinian rights and demands.

“Syria certainly has an important role to play in all these efforts,” said George Mitchell, the United States special envoy to the region on Wednesday as he was meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian capital, Damascus, the AFP news agency reported.

He claimed a US commitment “to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East that includes peace between Israel and Palestinians, Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon.”

“It also includes the full normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab states,” he asserted.

Assad, for his part, renewed Syria’s commitment to “a just and comprehensive peace” in the Middle East, the state news agency SANA said.

Tel Aviv refuses to meet the Palestinian condition for recommencement of the peace talks by enforcing a permanent and complete freeze on its settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Syria has repeatedly asserted its opposition to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands. “To establish peace, occupation must be ended and rights restored,” Assad insisted on Wednesday.

The resulting standoff in peace negotiations was compounded by Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 offensives against the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Palestinians. A UN-commissioned inquiry last year charged Tel Aviv with perpetrating war crimes during the offensives.

The raids also stalled talks between Damascus and Tel Aviv aimed at addressing Syria’s territorial claim on the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.