Assad lauds Kuwait”s role in cementing inter-Arab ties


Concluding a two-day visit to Kuwait, Al-Assad, the current president of the Arab summit, said in statements to the press he wants to visit all Arab countries to iron out all differences among them "but the possibility hinges on the desire of each country." "When a time schedule for the visits is developed in line with engagements of every Arab leader the visits will take place," he pointed out.
"Kuwait makes concerted efforts with Syria to improve the inter-Arab relations but can not, of course, take part in the arrangement of the schedule of the visits," he made clear.


Regarding the investment atmosphere in Syria, Al-Assad said his government offered great incentives to investors and developed large number of investment-friendly legislations.
"Syria is trying to overcome the challenges in the investment sector which was neglected for more than 50 years.


"It started to improve the financial, economic and administrative regulations to encourage investments," he underscored.


During his visits to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Al-Assad met with a number of major Kuwaiti, UAE and Syrian investors and business people.
"I did not seek to persuade them of the promising investments in Syria as they are aware of the ins and outs of the investment atmosphere there.


"I, rather sought to get acquainted with their proposals and suggestions on ways to improve the administrative aspect of investment and remove the red tape obstacles," he made clear.
"The Syrian government can not replace private investors, so it has to listen to the suggestions and demands of investors in order to promote joint enterprises between Syrian and Gulf private sector investors.


"The Gulf, especially the Kuwaiti, investments in Syria are growing steady, the president asserted.
Dealing with the Kuwaiti-Syrian security cooperation against the back drop of reports on the infiltration of three Kuwait youths to Iraqi via Syrian borders, Al-Assad said any Arab citizen could enter Syria without need to get a permit or a visa.


"Syria, however, realizes the importance of security cooperation with other Arab countries to combat terrorism and intercept terrorists. In case of failure to identify a person as terrorist, how could the Syrian authorities bar them from entering the county," he wondered.
"If we are sure that someone is a terrorist, we apprehend them and extradite them to their respective countries," he added.


Al-Assad wrapped up a two-day visit to Kuwait during which received HH the Amir at his residence at Bayan Palace in Kuwait city earlier in the day to discuss the bilateral relations and other regional issues of common concern.

On inter-Arab relations, al-Assad affirmed Syria’s keenness on unifying Arab ranks, especially ahead of the Damascus summit last March, pointing to the role of Kuwait and other Arab countries in this context, "but all such efforts failed".


He denied that Syria might be at loggerheads with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But, he said, "As Arabs, we may have divergent views." Inter-Arab ties can be further improved, should Arab nations be able to understand each one’s circumstances, he said.


He said he was upbeat that ties and bonds among all Arab nations would be improving, particularly following his meeting with His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.


He added that there was now no reason for any disagreement following the settlement of the Lebanese issue.


On his country’s role in a solution to the issue of the UAE’s three islands with Iran, the Syrian leader said the issue had been put on the agenda of the Damascus summit, pointing to Syrian support for UAE claim to the islands through dialogue and peaceful means.


But, Syria can not take any move unless it is requested by the UAE, he said. "If the UAE asks us to move, then we can discuss the issue with the Iranian side." Asked about his speech following the recent Israeli aggression on Lebanon, which was viewed by some as having been directed at some Arab leaders, the Syrian president said, "The problem was caused by mass media as I went to the Riyadh summit and met Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and I clarified the position to them. Thus, the issue became a thing of the past and has nothing to do whatsoever with what is happening now." Addressing reporters, al-Assaid said, "If you ask me if Syria has a problem with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, I reaffirm that there is no problem on our part. As I have just said, only stances need to be unified."

On the domestic situation, the Syrian leader said Syria had a clear-cut internal policy and had visions to develop the country and achieve more stability. "This is the essence of our policy, on which we focus so we do not care about what is being said," he said, referring to a press question on the so-called "Damascus Spring".


The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafez al-Assad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.
"The Damascus Spring is a pure media term with which the Syrian government does not deal. It only deals with reality," he said.
The government has commenced steps towards opening-up and there are priorities that need to be notched up, especially those pertinent to raising the living standards of Syrian citizens, he said.
He added that since he took over in 2000 his county had begun development at a critical stage in the region, which coincided with the Palestinian Intifada in September of the same year.


Like any other country in the world, Syria has problems bearing on development, not to mention obstacles and bureaucracy, he said.


"There are also other problems imposed on us from abroad, making us delay development projects and reverse priorities; mainly including Iraq war, Lebanon and terrorism," al-Assad added.


Asked about a reported Saudi scheme to topple the ruling regime in Syria, he said, "These are lies. I have only heard about such a scheme through mass media." Concerning the Muslim Brotherhood Group, he said, "We are on good terms with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine. But, regarding the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, we had had dialogue with them, and some of them, including leaders, have returned (from abroad to Syria) and are now leading normal lives." "We deal with them as individuals, rather than a party," he affirmed.
But, he blasted those who used to attack the State, betted on US pressure and cooperated with external bodies.

On the Israeli track, al-Assad accused Israel of terrorism in response to a question on Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas, which are billed by major countries and Israel as terrorist groups.
He went on to say, "We do not care about appellations. Late US President Ronald Reagan hailed al-Qaeda as holy fighters." Asked if Syria could sacrifice its relation with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas in return for peace, he said, "We can not accept preconditions on us, bearing on countries that have nothing to do with the peace march. Shall we lose our relations with the world just for the sake of forging relations with Israel?" On Syrian-Israeli peace talks, he said Syria had begun face-to-face negotiations with Israel in 1990, having reached the land-for-peace principle and UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. But, Syria has lost confidence in Israel since such negotiations came to a halt.

"Syria is now in the stage of indirect negotiations in Turkey through a Turkish mediator. In case of a common ground for negotiations, there will be public talks just as was the case in 1990," al-Assad said.


But, the Israeli side insists on scrapping all previous agreements, something which indicates that Israel is not earnest about peace, he said.


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