LONDON (Dec. 18)
Britain’s decision to renew diplomatic relations with Syria came under fire at this week’s plenary meeting of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
“We are extremely unhappy at this development in view of President (Hafez) Assad’s record as a godfather of international terrorism, including attempts to cause bloodshed on British soil,” said Lionel Kopelowitz, president of the Board of Deputies.
Particular concern was expressed that Syria’s recent renunciation of support for terrorism apparently excludes attacks on targets in Israel.
The representative body of British Jewry apparently was not mollified by Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd’s promise to raise the plight of Syria’s 5,000-member Jewish community with the Damascus government.
Hurd made the pledge at a recent meeting with a delegation from the Board of Deputies.
Britain severed diplomatic relations with Syria on Oct. 24, 1986, after the Syrian ambassador to London, Loutof Allah Haydar, was implicated in a terrorist attempt to blow up an El Al airliner at Heathrow airport on April 17, 1986.
The government’s decision to restore ties with Syria was defended by Ivan Lawrence of the Conservative Party, a member of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, who observed that diplomatic relations are “not a matter of honor or reward but a necessary part of international relations.”
Lawrence said the best way to help Syrian Jews was through negotiations with the Syrian authorities.