GRAND HOTEL, WASHINGTON DC – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1992
MR. ALLAF: I felt it might be useful to be with you at the end of this first week of the fourth round of bilateral talks here in Washington. But I am sorry to say, once again, that I cannot report to you any progress whatsoever at the end of this week.
The Israeli delegation came, it seems, with a predetermined decision not to permit any progress. We would have linked this to the present election campaign in Israel, but since this is not the first time our bilateral talks leads to nowhere, as they did at the end of this week, I’m afraid rather that this might be a constant objective of Mr. Shamir’s government just to sit with the Arabs in order to give the impression that there is a peace process ongoing, and at the same time, persists in the sort of action that that government has undertaken against the Arab inhabitants inside and outside the occupied Arab territories, and at the same time, block any real progress in the negotiations, in the bilateral talks, because the real objective is not to reach agreement, but the real objective is to make believe that a peace process is ongoing. Even when we were able to bring the Israeli delegation to discuss with us a matter of substance, we have been shocked and disturbed, greatly concerned to find that the Israeli delegation addressed those substantive, important matters in a distorted, twisted manner which revealed that the real objective of Israel is not really to reach, as they claim, a just and lasting peace in the region for the Arab-Israeli conflict but to try if they are pushed to implement anything to try to legitimize some or most of the terrorists under their occupation.
We have never heard from the Israeli side any hint to their readiness to accept, for instance, the principle of land for peace. And when I say land for peace, I do not want it to sound like if we are asking them to surrender some land. (…) And the basic principle of Resolutions 242 and 338 is exactly that equation for peace, equation by which land is returned in order to permit the establishment of a situation of peace. (…)
Q (…) they meet somewhere in the Middle East and coordinate their positions. And after they come to here, for instance, I just heard from the Jordanian spokesman that progress may not be equal at all fronts. So, how at what level are you?
MR. ALLAF: Yes, well, it is not necessary to indicate that there is coordination to have progress equal on all fronts. Because each front has its own circumstances and condition. And no Arab party, at least the Syrian side, is not against any progress in any Arab front or Arab bilateral group with Israel.
On the contrary, we are quarreling with the Israelis all the time because we always say the peace that we are seeking should be comprehensive peace. It is not enough to make peace with us and not to make peace with the Jordanians, with the Palestinians, with the Lebanese, because the history has proven that making peace with one Arab side and that’s good in itself, by itself, to make peace with any party, to liberate the territories occupied by war of any Arab country. Okay? But that did not led to peace between Israel and the Arab world.
So, in order to have a meaningful, just, lasting, and comprehensive peace, as the co-sponsors have indicated, we have to look at the whole situation because, after all, it is one conflict. It is an Arab-Israeli conflict, emanating from one question, the essential, original question for which that conflict happened, took place between the Israelis and the Arabs is the Palestinian question. So, all these other components, other groups, other discussion, other negotiations between the other Arabs and Israel are important, but we do not ask that everything happen at the same time. They might agree with us or not agree on the Golan, but they might agree with the Lebanese or with the Palestinians or with the Jordanians on the important is that nobody should try to make a separate peace at the end because, while it is good to have peace with each Arab country, but it is not conducive if some other Arab countries are still in a state of war with Israel. So, we are for a comprehensive settlement.
Q Sir, can you tell us the nature of the security threat here today, and if you’ve received from the State Department concerning the incident yesterday, the two bombs yesterday in New York? Do you know who’s behind that?
MR. ALLAF: Well, all what I know about that is that that bomb, they found a piece of paper which says, "Let the Syrian Jews leave."
I would like to talk to you about this because this thing is really very important to know. The number of Syrian citizens of Jewish faith is about 4,000. And they live for centuries in harmony, in fraternity, as citizens of Syria because we do not believe that there should be any discrimination or difference between anybody and anybody else based on religion.
This is not only our, I think, belief; this is, I think, an important provision, an important article of the declaration of human rights, which says that no discrimination whatsoever should be based on sex, religion, language, race, et cetera.
If always we say that Israel has no right to interfere in the situation concerning any part of the Syrian citizens, it is not because we do not we have anything to hide. [It is] because we do not believe Israel has any right to ask about our citizens, our nationals of Jewish faith, in the same manner that we have no right to ask about what is the fate, what is the destiny, what are the things concerning, for instance, Chinese citizens of Moslem faith, Pakistani citizens of Moslem faith, Indian citizens of Moslem faith, Nigerian citizens of Moslem faith. You know, Moslems are all around the world.
If we give ourselves the right, the privilege to interfere into the affairs of other countries just because some citizens of those countries happen to adhere to Islam, then we imagine the situation in the world. We are against that because Israel itself is basing its policies and its oppression against the Arabs of Palestine because they do not adhere, they do not belong to Judaism. Otherwise, instead of bringing Jews from all around the world, they should let the Palestinians, the original inhabitants of the territory themselves, who are uprooted, remaining in refugee camps, who are oppressed here and there, who have no identity, no passport, nothing they do not permit them to return to their country in spite of all the resolutions of the United Nations. Why? Because they are not Jews. And it’s shameful at this age, we are nearing the 21st century, to base the treatment of people on whether they belong to this religion or to that religion.
So that’s why we refuse to Israel the right to speak concerning any citizen. I will accept to speak about Moslems, Christians, not from people who claim for themselves the right to inspect the situation of Moslems and Christians. But I do not accept the right of Israel to say that they are the guardian of Jews all around the world, because we are the guardians of our own citizens, our own people. And our people are happy; they do not want the interference of Israel or anybody else.
And I have told the Israeli counterpart, when he raised even this morning this question, that really he cannot understand because his mind is based on that racist, exclusive mentality which always treats people who belong to something separate and in a different way from other people. I told him I would be ready to tell you about anything if you do not say that "those people I am responsible for them." Those are Syrians. They look like us. They look like Syrians. Their names are like us, not like yours. They do not call them Mordechai (ph) or the leader’s name was Saleem; my son’s name is Saleem. They look like me and like my son. They speak Arabic, they follow the Arab tradition.
And in their, you know, campaign of falsification and lies, they create such incidents like the incident of yesterday that was referred to by our colleague here, some misled people, they will believe what they hear from the Israeli government delegation and they will think really there is an oppression. The question is really that we do not believe as the Israelis that religion is a reason for difference between people, and if we accept their right to interfere in the affairs of the Syrian Jews, then we would be acquiescing and agreeing to their policy of differentiating between the Palestinians, whether they are Jews or Muslims or Christians.
Q I wanted to ask you two things about something you said earlier
MR. ALLAF: Just, could you
Q Yes. I wanted to ask you about something about something you said earlier. Are you going to have a formal request for the intervention of the cosponsors at the end of this round if no progress is made? And then, also, if the cosponsors do not intervene and no progress is made, then are you saying that you will refuse to return to a fifth round?
MR. ALLAF: Well, in all honesty it is not my decision to decide as head of delegation whether we should decide to continue or not continue. But I know that at least my government intends to make a real and serious appraisal at the end of this session, of this round, in order to see whether there is any real useful purpose from continuing this peace process. But if there is the end of this round of no real results, I think there are reasons strong reasons to rethink the whole peace process because otherwise we would be permitting Israel to use this peace process as a camouflage, as a cover in order to continue its expansionist, aggressive policies inside the Arab territories and to tell the people that do not talk about this because we are sitting with the Arabs, talking with the Arabs, the Arabs are discussing peace with us.
I think the cosponsors are aware of this danger and I understand that not only us but the cosponsors and the others are also going to make a serious and deep appraisal after the end of this round in order to see how to proceed.
Q Can you say whether you are going to (off mike)?
MR. ALLAF: Yes, as I said, I we might, yes, at the end of this round if we do not find that there is any progress, we shall ask the cosponsors to fulfil their promise of acting as a driving force and to save this peace process if possible.
Q Yeah, pursuing that point, as a practical matter, if you do so, how will you contend with the ground rules, which state that intervention of the cosponsors may take place only at the approval of all of the parties, which, of course, includes Israel?
MR. ALLAF: No, there is no such agreements. Not the intervention of the cosponsors is subject to the agreement of both sides, only the participation of the cosponsors in the meetings is subject to the agreement of both sides. But the duty and responsibility of the cosponsors is a basic understanding that has been agreed and accepted by all parties, that they are the driving force, that they are committed to the successful result of this round. So, we will not be violating any rule if we at a certain moment feel that the cosponsors should intervene.
And most of the time, as I was saying, I do not think that the cosponsor even would need our formal request, because the proof that they call us from time to time to ask us about what is happening and to see how things are happening and maybe they are, I mean, not officially, but behind the scene they are trying to intervene with the parties in order to ensure the success. I think this is one of their main responsibilities.
And this is why we have accepted to come and to participate in this peace process, otherwise we would have insisted on the full participation of the United Nations, the full participation of those powers that are responsible for the maintaining of international peace and security in the world. But we have accepted this peace process under the understanding that the cosponsors are the driving force of the powers which are committed to the success, to the fruitful results of this peace process?
Q May I ask a follow up? I believe I grasp your point about the Syrian Jewry question being a problem for you when it’s coming in the context of Israeli officials saying we are asserting our rights to intervene and ask about this. But as a separate matter and standing on its own, I note that there have been things said that I wonder if you could respond to, understanding that it’s not within the context of coming from Israeli officials, but just as an issue pure and simple. One thing I understand is it’s been said that Syrian Jews may not become members of the Ba’ath party. It’s said also that while other Syrians can leave without posting bond or leaving family behind, that these people must either post a bond and/or leave a family member behind. Can you address these issues without reference to the fact that Israel
MR. ALLAF: No, no, I tell you, you should not believe really because all what you are saying is not true. You know, the number, I was saying the numbernd then, I was when my turn came to answer him, I told him, "How do you dare say these things when not in Tel Aviv but in Damascus we have 22 synagogues?" I gave him some figures after I told him very clearly, "I am not giving these figures to you because I have any account to present to you you have no right whatsoever to ask but to put once and for all an end to your lies and falsification about the tragic situation in which these Syrian Jews are living."
The number is 4,000. Among these 4,000 there is about 44 doctors, about 27 pharmacists, is the name?
MR. JANNAN: Pharmacists.
MR. ALLAF: About nearly one-third of that number are in universities and schools and e figures, but it can be provided to anybody who would like to know. If you see these numbers compared to the total number of Jews, you will see that there are maybe four or five times better percentage than the Moslem Syrians or the Christian Syrians and even of the Israelis in Israel, you see? But we do not admit, as I said, as a matter of principle to anyone, including Israel and especially Israel, to claim that they are the guardian of any other citizens of any other country just because those citizens happen to be following Judaism. Like as I said, we do not accept to anybody else to interfere, otherwise we will have Saudi Arabia claiming that it is the protector of all Muslims around the world, as I said, for the Vatican to be the protector of all Christians around the world. This is returning to the theory of discrimination based on religion on religious grounds.
Q (Off mike) I do understand your point. What about the allegation regarding discrimination
MR. ALLAF: It is not true.
Q and emigration rights
MR. ALLAF: It is not true. Two months ago, three months ago, when the President of Syria was re-elected, we were surprised some of the known Jews in Syria to see how enthusiastic was the our citizens of Jewish faith who went out of their work with banners written in Hebrew, although they use most of the time in addition to Hebrew Arabic. But on purpose they wrote those banners in Hebrew with the photos of the President in support of the President, and that is and that was shown on TV all around the world.
Q Can they join the Ba’ath Party?
MR. ALLAF: I do not know. I am not I do not I do not belong to the Ba’ath Party. Let them I do not know. Maybe there is in the Ba’ath Party some of them. But I do not know who is in the Ba’ath Parth of who is not. It is not a privilege to be in the Ba’ath Party. This is a political there are people in the Ba’ath Party. There are people in other parties. We have about seven or eight group of parties who are in Syria political parties. And some people are with the Ba’ath, some people are with other parties. And the majority of people are like me: not belonging to any party.
We are Syrians. I am a I happen to be a Muslim Syrian. And I have friends who happen to be Jewish Syrian. So why for God’s sake, why create at this time in 1992 treatment between people based on religion? And if it is so because also the Israeli delegate always say "Right to leave the country, right to leave the country," but he forgets right to return to the country. (Laughter.) This is what happens with the he took half of it. We have a verse in the Koran which say, "Do not come near prayer okay? when you are drunk." That was before drinking wine was forbidden in Islam. (States passage in Arabic.) So we have a have a proverb which say like someone who says, "Do not come near prayer and sup." But what is in the instructions of God is "Do not pray while you are drunk," at that time when drinking was permitted.
MR. JANNAN: Okay. Over there.
Q Has the issue of Lebanon been raised in your bilateral talks with the Israelis?
MR. ALLAF: The substantive issues?
Q Of Lebanon.
MR. ALLAF: Of Lebanon. Yes. Again, in their attempt the Israelis to divert the real discussion, they accuse Syria of being an occupying power in Lebanon, and that Syria is dictating on Lebanon to do or not to do things. And they say that the presence of Syria in Lebanon is a danger against Israel.
Now, he doesn’t want to understand that he, as Israeli, he should (…) Lebanon, the Israeli presence and the Syrian presence, which cannot be compared whatsoever. Because the Syrian presence is a legitimate presence requested by the legitimate government of Lebanon, approved by the Arab League, approved by all the governments, and approved by the Taif agreement two, three years ago. I think it was
MR. JANNAN: Two. Two years.
MR. ALLAF: two years ago, which is approved by many countries, including the United States, the cosponsor in this country. And that agreement regulates the efforts to return Lebanon to the full sovereignty over its territory, to the legitimate government of Lebanon, to get control over all those militias and all those things that were partitioning Lebanon and causing that civil war for that long time. Syria’s effort in that respect is recognized by everyone, and first of all by the government of Lebanon and the people of Lebanon while the presence of Israel is an aggressive presence condemned by the United Nations, and Israel is requested to withdraw without any condition from Lebanon under Security Council Resolution 425.
So it is very strange that Israel, which invaded Lebanon twice and which occupies until now a big part of South Lebanon either directly or through these puppet traitors who are called the South Lebanese Army who are against their own people, Israel is saying that the presence of Syria is a danger against it and saying nothing nothing about their own presence, especially after all the destruction which they inflicted on Lebanon and that they are repeating from time to time, and the last time was right before we came here. And everybody knows how much destruction was inflicted on innocent, in villages, and how many people were obliged to leave their villages.
So we, of course, answered the Israelis when they raised that question, but what is more important, the answer came to them from the first people concerned which are the Lebanese people.
MR. JANNAN: Yes.
Q If I understand you, your participation in the next round of talks, bilateral talks, and also the multilateral talks, will be conditioned to the reassessment of the situation in your government because you don’t approve of the (inaudible)?
MR. ALLAF: I’m not talking about the multilateral talks, because our condition to participate in the multilateral talks is that we achieve results, concrete results, in the bilateral talks. And our position was proven to be correct and right by the outcome of the Moscow meeting of the multilateral. Because there was no r progress whatsoever in the bilateral talks, it was not possible in Moscow really to go anywhere, and there was then ideas about trying to try seminars and other fora in order to begin the discussion. We believe that multilateral talks is phase three of the peace process. So you do not jump to phase three before at least having some success in phase two.
And there is also the other logical thing, what is the subject, what is the topic, the main topic in multilateral talks is cooperation, regional cooperation. So I do not understand how it’s possible in the world to discuss economic cooperation, environment, exchange of sharing water, all these disarmament, all these topics of cooperation, regional, between countries, how you can discuss that with a country which occupies your territory.
The main countries in the region to cooperate, of course there are other countries, but the main countries, the main parties are the Arab countries: Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel and then Turkey, Iran, others I do not know, all other countries of the region, and European countries and others, but the main countries of the region are those countries. Four of these countries, their territories are occupied by Israel. So, how we can discuss cooperation with a country that occupies our territory.
So what we say as Syrians, let us first solve the reason for which cooperation does not exist with Israel, and if we solve the basic issue, which is withdrawal and peace, then it would be possible to discuss. So we are for the multilateral talks, but we are against the timing of those talks.
Did I answer the whole question? I forgot.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. ALLAF: Yeah, about the bilateral. Yes, yes, I’m sorry.
Q No, I’m asking about the bilateral
MR. ALLAF: Yes.
MR. ALLAF: Now, for the bilateral, as I said, it is not within my authority to decide whether to continue or not. But I know that there is a decision on our side at least to make a serious and deep appraisal of the outcome of the peace process at the end of this round. And the decision of my government I think would be taken after that appraisal.
MODERATOR: Those who would like to address in Arabic, please later on, now. Yes, please.
MODERATOR: No, no, not in Arabic. Who is yes? Arabic later, later.
MR. ALLAF: We shall answer the Arabic questions in a moment.
Q I wanted to ask Ambassador Allaf what you are saying is if Israel accepts the idea of withdrawal or the principle of withdrawal, then we would have conditions that peace would prevail according to the provisions of 242. Does that mean that the Syrian government would be ready to a full contracted peace agreement with Israel like the Egyptians because 242 doesn’t spell out peaceful agreement? It says in an indirect way that all the countries in the region have the right to live in peace and in secure borders. Anwar Sadat at the time realized that in order to get all of Sinai he has to contract a full peace agreement with Israel. And on that basis he got the whole Sinai. Are you ready to do the same way?
MR. ALLAF: Well, again, I think it is a question of putting the cart in front of the horse or the horse in front of the cart. When you have a formula, an equation which says that there are two conditions, you withdraw and then peace is possible, because the reason why there is no peace is the occupation. Okay? So, it is not a question all to say only, okay, I shall withdraw, but sign with me a peace treaty. It is not that. It is a question, we are saying right from now that we are ready to abide by the two parts of the equation, two parts of the equation.
And I have said, I’m on record saying that we are ready to abide by all the consequences, attributes of peace when Israel really commits itself solemnly to abide by the fair (situation ?) which is full withdrawal from the occupies territories in this in our case, the Golan which it occupied in 1967. At that moment, when Isreal really is ready to undertake solemnly that withdrawal, then we are ready to undertake all the requirements, all the attributes of peace that you are mentioning.
MODERATOR: We have two question in Arabic to address please.
(Whereupon the press conference concluded in Arabic.)