I am linking to the interview given by President Bashar al-Assad to the Hindu Times, in which he clarified and laid out various Syrian positions and policies. As we are aware, President Assad is going to make a historic trip to India next week in an attempt to strengthen relations and cooperation between the two countries. The full interview can be found here: http://www.hindu.com/2008/06/12/stories/2008061254551100.htm
What struck me about this article is Assad's clarity and firmness in his positions. He addressed several topics, including current indirect negotiations with "Israel," latest developments in Lebanon, and the pace of continuous Syrian reforms. With respect to the indirect negotiations, Assad made clear that Syria has nothing to offer "Israel" in exchange for the Golan, as the Golan is Syrian land and should be returned to Syria without any pre-conditions. Regarding Lebanon, Assad expressed an interest in establishing full diplomatic ties with, and paying a visit to, the Lebanese entity, but only once a "national unity" government is established and he has discussed the matter with President Michel Sleiman. On the matter of reforms inside Syria, Assad admitted that reforms have gone slower than originally planned, and that this was due to various political realities, including the dangerous developments and ensuing US threats after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri. However, Assad did state that reforms would continue and would begin moving at a faster pace, once the security situation in the region improves, and threats coming from the US subside. It is an interesting interview and should be read and analyzed carefully to fully understand Syria's positions and objectives in the region.