Olmert: I’m open to meeting Assad


Ehud Olmert said he was open to a direct meeting with Syrian leader Bashar Assad at some time in the future.

“When we have reached an understanding with Syria on the specific agenda and on the points that we will discuss, it will be time to start direct contacts,” he said in an interview in Thursday’s le Figaro French daily. “We’re not far from them. If both parties are serious, we should sit around one table to talk soon.”

Olmert affirmed that “Syria has to stop being a center for terror and harboring headquarters for Hamas and Islamic jihad.” And that, “if there is an way to achieve a political accord [with Syria], we should seize it.”

He also said he would attend a July summit in Paris, where Assad will be present, noting that he supported the French-initiated summit meeting on a Mediterranean Union.

“Any mechanisms that can bring countries together that normally do not cooperate are a step in the right direction,” he said.

In the same interview, Olmert suggested negotiating with the Lebanese Prime Minister, saying “If we negotiate with Syria, why not with the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouade Siniora?”

He also reiterated his goals for an Annapolis accord possibly by the end of 2008, and discussed the need to put global pressure on Iran.

“It is up to the United States, to Europe, to China and to Russia, who have the capacity in a concerted effort, to prevent the Iranians from progressing on their (nuclear) program,” he said.

Concerning an Annapolis accord, Olmert said, “We said that we hoped for a consensus on these questions before the end of 2008. But it is not an obligation. We have promised to try, and I think that is still possible.”

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