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Syria wants India to play role in Middle East

Syria wants India to play role in Middle East

New Delhi: Nursing a feeling that India is ignoring the Arab world, Syria wants it to play a role to help resolve the Middle East crisis, particularly by using its good offices with the US.

Visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem contended that the Middle East situation has a bearing on India and it is in New Delhi’s interest to see that Arab-Israel conflict is resolved politically.

“India deserves to play a role in the international arena, particularly the Middle East... India can do a lot in this field," he told a group of journalists here on 14 August.

Asked to elaborate, he said India needs to “invest its relations with US to convince the (American) administration that peace and stability in Middle East serves interests of the region, including India."

Al-Moualem, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and held talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee during his three-day visit, said India should take a lead in NAM to support the Arab peace initiative.

India should also continue to support Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas that will help establish peace in the region, the Syrian minister said.

Suggesting that India had been ignoring the Arab world in the recent years, he said it was time for return and New Delhi was keen to do so.

“India feels its interest is in returning (to Arab world)," the Syrian Foreign Minister said while noting that New Delhi had a role to play in resolving the Iraq crisis as well.

On the growing Indo-US relations, particularly in the context of civil nuclear deal, Al-Moualem said his country is not unnecessarily perturbed but expects New Delhi to continue to have independent foreign policy.

“What will worry us is when we feel India has departed from independent foreign policy," he said.

Noting the Prime Minister’s assertion in Parliament that independence of India’s foreign policy will be maintained irrespective of the nuclear deal with the US, he said it addresses Syria’s worry.

More than a year ago, the US had objected to Indian investments in Syria but New Delhi chose to ignore that.

Al-Moualem said India and Arab world had common interests and needed to focus on enhancing economic cooperation.

Turning to the Kashmir issue, the Syrian Foreign Minister said his country favoured its resolution through negotiations between India and Pakistan.

He expressed happiness over the ongoing Indo-Pak talks in this regard.

On Iraq situation, he said the “occupation forces" of US and others needed to leave in a phased manner to help bring peace there.

Iraq’s neighbours should play a greater role to help usher in peace and normalcy in the trouble-torn Arab country, he said.

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