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Contentions

Sarkozy in Damascus

While most of media outlets were busy judging Israel’s, Syria’s and the U.S.’s motives and interests in the recent meeting between Bashar Assad and Nicolas Sarkozy in Damascus, some also dedicated space to analyzing the role of Sarkozy:

The Jerusalem Post was skeptical about the meeting, but not about the Frenchman:

Could it be that Assad is once again dangling the possibility of peace with Israel as a way to renew contacts with Washington and Paris and end his international isolation?

Haaretz was more enthusiastic about the meeting, and was right to comment that it has no reason to be angry or unhappy with Sarkozy:

[T]his time Israel cannot be angry with the French. After all, it did an about-face as well when it began an indirect dialogue with Syria, which is meant to turn into direct talks at a later stage. In this Israel diverged from the normal framework, under which its relations with the countries in the region are coordinated with the United States.

But this doesn’t mean that Sarkozy was doing the right thing. As Emile Hokayem of the Henry Stimson Center points out:

Many will welcome Sarkozy’s visit to Damascus, but there are indeed legitimate questions about the timing and manner of his opening to Syria, which had been shunned for the past three years for its interference in Lebanese affairs. His warm embrace of Assad displayed a curious mix of cynicism and naivety that has not been a characteristic of French diplomacy until now.

Michael Young, at Lebanon’s Daily Star, makes a similar point, even more blatantly:

Sarkozy has proven to be the most destructive of opportunists here. After having negotiated a mediocre agreement in Georgia that allowed Russia to pursue its military actions there under the guise of defensive measures, yesterday in Damascus the French president waded into the Shebaa Farms imbroglio, with the same ostentation and shallowness. Sarkozy’s true purpose was plain on Tuesday when he declared that peace in the Middle East “went through France and Syria,” and that his aim was to see Syria “regaining its place in the concert of nations.”

The Lebanese might be those losing more than others by this untimely diplomatic intervention. But hey, who cares about them?



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