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Syrian–Israeli Negotiations: An interview with Radwan Ziadeh

07/09/2009

Dr. Radwan Ziadeh is one of the most accomplished researchers in Syria. His book “The Near Peace: The Syrian-Israeli Negotiations” was the first book about this issue to be published in Arabic.
After his seminar for the ICSR at King’s College London, he agreed to a short interview.

ICSR: How crucial is the agreement between Israel and Syria as part of a peace process in the Middle East?

Radwan Ziadeh: It’s very important. In order to have a comprehensive peace in the region, we need to have peace with all the parties, and not only with the Palestinian Authority. Syria still has some occupied territories by Israel such as the Golan Heights. Without having peace between Syria and Israel peace in the region is unconceivable.

ICSR: During Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s visit to Syria last week, Bashar al-Assad said: “Israel is not ready to make peace either in the short term or the long term… all Israeli governments since 1991 are identical. [...] opinion polls show that Israelis are not ready to make peace because they do not want to give the land back”. With a statement like this it’s hard to imagine that these two countries could come to an agreement soon.

Radwan Ziadeh: These kinds of statements aren’t new between Israel and Syria. But when we get in a climate of negotiations, then the statements will change.
Peace needs serious and difficult steps.We need to create some hope on both sides, show that we have alternatives, that we have a peace agreement.
Without any of this we find ourselves now in a state called ‘no peace, no war’.
Neither side can go ahead with the war: it would cost too much, nobody can deal with that. And neither side can promote peace by fear of another refusal of a peace agreement.

ICSR: We recently published a brochure called “15 ideas to fix the Middle East“. If you had to contribute your own idea to progress towards peace, what would it be?

Radwan Ziadeh: To look towards the future rather than looking back. Looking back at history we get stuck in history. Only the future holds the solution.

Radwan Ziadeh is a visiting Scholar at The Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, New York and a visiting Fellow at Chatham House, London.

Previously, he was a visiting scholar at Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at United States Institute of Peace in Washington D.C.
Radwan is the founder and director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies in Syria and the co-founder and executive director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studiesin Washington D.C.