Israeli FM Lieberman Adds Heat to Exchange With Syria

JERUSALEM — Israel’s blunt-talking foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, warned Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, on Thursday that the Assad family would lose power in any war with Israel, ratcheting up bellicose exchanges between the countries in recent days.

In a speech at Bar-Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, Mr. Lieberman said: “I think that our message must be clear to Assad. In the next war, not only will you lose, you and your family will lose the regime. Neither you will remain in power, nor the Assad family.”

That had to be the message, Mr. Lieberman added, because “the only value truly important to them is power.”

In an effort to calm the atmosphere, an aide to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Mr. Netanyahu was “ready to go anywhere in the world, at any time, to open peace talks with Syria without preconditions.”

The aide, Nir Hefetz, added that Israel did not rule out assistance from any “fair third party” that could advance a peace process with Syria.

Mr. Lieberman was responding to strident comments from Syria on Wednesday. Mr. Assad told the visiting Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, that Israel was “not serious about achieving peace” and that the facts indicated that “Israel is pushing the region toward war, not peace,” according to the Syrian news agency SANA.

Furthermore, the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said Wednesday that “Israel should not test Syria’s determination,” adding, “Israel knows that war will move to the Israeli cities.”

He implied that a conflict beginning in South Lebanon could also lead to an all-out war.

Mr. Moallem made his comments in response to a strong statement made by Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, to senior Israeli Army officers on Monday, warning that “in the absence of an arrangement with Syria, we are liable to enter a belligerent clash with it that could reach the point of an all-out, regional war.”

Israelis understood Mr. Barak’s remark as a plea for the Israeli government to start new peace negotiations with Syria, but the Syrians apparently interpreted it as warmongering.

Continue reading: NEW YORK TIMES

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