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5/8/03 - A NEW ENVIRONMENT FOR SYRIA - 2003-05-08


The liberation of Iraq has created an opportunity to promote a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

What would peace between Israelis and Palestinians mean? It would mean a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It would also mean an end to terrorism against Israel, terrorism now supported by Iran, Syria, and other states. Syria has provided political and material support, including offices in Damascus, to a number of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Syria:

“And my clear message to President Bashar Assad is that some of the policies you’ve been following in the past will not take you anywhere in the future. Support of terrorist activities, the presence in Damascus of organizations that continue to cause terrorist activity to take place, which makes it hard to move forward on the Middle East peace process, these things have to come to the end. The offices have to be closed.”

Now is the time, not for words, but for action, said Mr. Powell:

“It’s performance that we’ll be looking at in the days and weeks and months ahead, and he [Syrian President Assad] knows that. Performance not only with respect to these kinds of [terror], a place where weapons can be transshipped to other organizations, such as Hezbollah, that cause destabilizing actions -- let me put it as mildly as that -- to take place in the occupied territories or elsewhere or threaten Israel.”

Clearly, Syria has a decision to make. Syria’s leaders can move toward peace and have a better relationship with the U.S. “If they do not,” said Secretary of State Colin Powell, “there will be consequences.”

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