The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal gives Syria Israel, takes Pak

Damascus, Nov. 16: India today strongly opposed Israeli action against Syria, which reciprocated by supporting a bilateral resolution of the India-Pakistan problem.

In a joint statement, issued here at the conclusion of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit, India “emphasised that action against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as happened last month is not acceptable”. This was a direct response to the Israeli bombing on the outskirts of Damascus in October.

If this was the “give” on India’s part, the “take” was in Syria condemning “all acts of terrorism of which they (India and Syria) have been victims”.

There was some disquiet in Indian quarters that President Bashar al Assad, at his iftar banquet, had called for a just solution in South Asia respecting “the rights of all sides”.

Any worry that Syria might be equivocating on Pakistan and Kashmir was, therefore, set to rest today.

Syria ended up welcoming India’s peace initiative with Pakistan.

It went on to say that the issues between India and Pakistan should be settled bilaterally through a dialogue and in the framework provided under the Simla Agreement of 1972 and the Lahore Declaration of 1999.

This is what India wanted and this is what it managed to get from one of the most important Arab countries.

The visit also helped Vajpayee and Assad, 40 years younger, to strike a rapport, adds PTI.

The President reflected the warmth in the ties by driving to the Prime Minister’s hotel to see him off on a sightseeing tour. Vajpayee took time off his schedule to visit top tourist destinations — the great mosque in the heart of Damascus and the ancient ruins at Palmyra to which he flew in Assad’s special aircraft.

Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri and all his cabinet colleagues saw off Vajpayee, the first Indian premier to visit Syria in 15 years, at the airport in a break from protocol.

Referring to his extensive talks with the Syrian President on West Asia and Iraq, Vajpayee said: “We remain concerned at the continuing cycle of violence and counter-violence in the region.”

In a statement before flying back home after his six-day trip to Russia, Tajikstan and Syria, Vajpayee said it has given a fresh impetus to bilateral cooperation with these “important countries” in regions of great political, economic and strategic significance to India.

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