IN OTHER WORDS
The diplomatic chessboard of the Middle East got a telling makeover last week, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the emir of Qatar in Damascus for talks with Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad. The three visitors were there to promote the negotiations Syria and Israel have been conducting through Turkish go-betweens. All three grasp the value of a peace that could subtract Syria from the Iranian orbit, help safeguard an independent Lebanon, and enable Israel to have peace treaties with all the surrounding Arab states.
Sarkozy, Erdogan, and the emir of Qatar are filling a void created by President Bush, who has abdicated America’s traditional role as mediator for Israeli-Arab peace talks. Bush’s doctrinal refusal to deal with nasty regimes like Assad’s has meant that Israel and Syria have had to look elsewhere: to France as current holder of the EU’s presidency, to Qatar as designated peacemaker of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and to Turkey as a regional power.
Assad has made it clear, however, that no deal can be concluded until there is a new administration in Washington able and willing to take an active role in forging peace between Israel and Syria. This ought to be one of the highest priorities of the next mericanpresident. — The Boston Globe