Wednesday, June 11, 2008

US State Department comments on France's overture towards Syria-June 9-10

US Department of State
Taken Question
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 9, 2008

France – Envoys to Syria (Taken Question)

Question: What is our reaction to President Sarkozy's decision to send two envoys to Damascus?

Answer: France and the United States share the same wish for peace and stability in the region. France is a valued ally that plays a key role in the UN, in the EU, in the Mideast generally, at NATO, and globally. We both want to see a Lebanon that is peaceful, prosperous and free of foreign interference. We look forward to continuing discussions with France on how to best support the Lebanese people to achieve their goals for a better future.

At the same time, the United States has serious concerns over the Syrian government's behavior including its support of terrorism, clandestine nuclear program, facilitation of the passage of foreign fighters into Iraq, repression of its own people, and interference in the affairs of its neighbors, including Lebanon.

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 10, 2008

QUESTION: Yes. What's your reaction today of French President invited the President of Syria to visit Paris? Are they no longer in solidarity with your policy on Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, we have worked very closely with, now, two French governments on the issue of Lebanon. And we've gotten real results, as – in part, because of that partnership on that, and we are going to continue to work very closely with the French Government on issues related to Lebanon. I think we had a lot of – we have the same goals, essentially, and that is to see a Lebanon that is free from foreign interference, that is able to exercise sovereignty throughout the country from border to border, that is one that has a political system where you don't have political parties that have one foot in politics and one foot in terror. 

That's – all of that – all of that said, this is perhaps a point of departure, in terms of this invitation between the two of us. We would hope that they use that opportunity to send a very strong message to Syria that they could and should play a more constructive role in the region on a variety of fronts, whether it's Lebanon or whether that happens to deal with Iraq or whether that happens to deal with peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So we would hope that they would use this occasion as an opportunity to send that very clear message. And I would expect that when Secretary Rice is in Paris that she'll talk about this as well as other issues, as will President Bush.
QUESTION: The French argument is that Syria, by kind of not interfering in the presidential election in Lebanon you know showed, perhaps, that it's willing to play a more constructive role and that that premise should be, kind of, tested further. I mean, you don't necessarily think that Syria's kind of lack of – the fact that they allowed the presidential election to go forward is, albeit a small, but positive step that should be kind of encouraged?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look. You have to go back and ask yourself the question of how correct is it that a neighboring state block a presidential election going forward in a neighboring state? And then you ask yourself the question of whether or not that kind of behavior should be rewarded.

Clearly, we have a different view. The French Government, in this regard, will take its own decisions. But I fully expect that we are going to be – continue working very closely on matters related to peace in the Middle East as well as, and in particular, on Lebanon, because we really – we have the same goals.
QUESTION: No, but I'm – just on the kind of larger issue of these small steps, and you're saying that they shouldn't necessarily be rewarded. I mean, isn't the goal of not necessarily only Syria, but in Cuba or any other place where you're looking for these countries to have better behavior, I mean, isn't a small step better than no step at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, everybody will come to their own assessment of the situation, whether it's in Cuba or Lebanon or Syria or elsewhere around the globe. As I said, we believe that this is a point of – a point of departure. I'm not going to make a huge – any big pronouncements about this, but simply stated, it is point of departure between the two of us. But I would underline in saying that – that we do share the same goals with respect to Lebanon and really with respect to the Middle East writ large.