Syrian official: We're prepared for war
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Apr. 8, 2008

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's messages of reassurance to assuage Syrian fears over Israel's nationwide drill did not succeed in curbing the rhetoric coming out of Damascus on Tuesday.

A senior Syrian official said Tuesday that Syria would be prepared for all possible scenarios as soon as the "language of understanding" with Israel over the peace process ended.

"When the language of understanding with Israel regarding the peace process comes to an end, Syria will be prepared for any possibility," Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said in an interview with the government-controlled Al-Thawra newspaper. "The Israelis aren't aware that we know that every war has its own path? The more Israel tries to generate this centralized atmosphere in order to reap benefit from the July downfall [the Second Lebanon War], [Syria] cannot but also draw plans in advance of a conflict."

Mekdad went on to say that the drill was meant to rehabilitate the IDF's deterrence capability - which he claimed was lost in the Second Lebanon War - restore the confidence of the Israeli public in the army and generate an atmosphere of readiness among the ranks of the military.

"If Syria is the target of all of this, know that we are following the drill and are also developing our capabilities and our plans to face the Israeli maneuvers," he warned.

Olmert and his associates reiterated Tuesday that Syria should have nothing to worry about.

"We don't expect anything to happen [with Syria]," Olmert said on a tour of IDF Central Command. "We are not worried that they want something to happen. I think they know it would not be a good thing for something to develop in the North. They know what our abilities are, and that's why I think reports of tension are exaggerated."

An Olmert associate added: "There is no reason any of Israel's neighbors should be concerned. This exercise is internal, and it is part of the lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War about better preparing our civilian populations. Israel does not seek conflict with our neighbors. We seek peace with them, including Syria."

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida reported Tuesday that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was planning to visit Qatar next week, where she is expected meet senior Syrian envoys in order to "complete the covert negotiations between Israel and Syria."

According to the report, which quoted sources in Jerusalem, talks between the two countries have been going on over the past two years with the intention of setting down the groundwork for a peace agreement.

Livni's office could not confirm or deny the report.


Original article: Jerusalem Post
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