BONN (Sep. 12)
President Hafez Assad of Syria received the red carpet treatment when he arrived here yesterday for a five-day official visit, the first by a Syrian chief of state to West Germany. He was praised at a banquet given in his honor last night by President Walter Scheel who described Syria’s role in the Middle East conflict as one “based on the willingness to negotiate and strive for peace.”
Scheel said that Syria’s attitude “strengthened Germany in its belief that the conflict can be peaceably settled. ” But he expressed concern over events in Lebanon where the Syrian peace-keeping force has been battling the Christian militia for the past two months. He said hostilities in Lebanon threatened not only that country’s existence but the entire Middle East. Assad and Scheel met earlier for one hour with the participation of the foreign ministers of both countries. A reception was held for Assad to which the foreign diplomatic corps was invited. The Ambassadors of Israel and Egypt reportedly did not attend.
Official sources here are describing Assad as a “reasonable man” who is “open to persuasion” and “not without influence on more radical Arab states like Algeria or Libya.” Apart from the Mideast peace process and the conflict in Lebanon, German economic aid to Syria is expected to be high on the agenda of Assad’s official talks.
Syria ia a major recipient of West German development assistance. It has received nearly $200 million since 1974 when it resumed diplomatic ties with Bonn. This includes a promise of $50 million this year, which Assad may try to have increased. An additional $42 million in “technical aid” has been granted.