DAMASCUS (Reuters)–Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday slammed last week’s joint Turkish naval maneuvers with Israel–saying they were directed against Syria.
"We rejected this (maneuver) because it is considered as an axis against Syria as a sisterly Arab country," Mubarak told a joint news conference with President Hafez al-Assad following talks in Damascus.
"I explained to the Turkish officials more than once that we will never accept any alliance against Syria or any other Arab state," the Egyptian president said.
He said he refused to send an observer to the joint Turkish-Israeli-US naval exercises which were conducted in the Mediterranean last Wednesday with Jordan participating as an observer.
Mubarak rejected the Israeli–Turkish and US explanation that the exercises were only for search and rescue purposes.
"We heard recently there will be more maneuvers in the Mediterranean by the concerned parties–which means they were not only for search and rescue–Mubarak said.
"So we have to observe the situation and see what will happen in the future," he added.
During the news conference–President Assad restated his rejection of Syria making any concession on land and said he will insist on full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights–captured by Israel in 1967.
"The ball is now in the Israeli court. It has become clear that they (Israeli leaders) are killing peace and the peace process. Arabs are committed to peace while others do not want peace," Assad said.
Assad’s spokesman Joubran Kourieh said earlier that both the Syrian and Egyptian leaders expressed concern over the deterioration of the peace process and blamed the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the current stalemate.
"Both discussed the peace process and the dangerous situation it reached due to the policy of Israel’s government which ignored the basis of the process and the international legitimacy resolutions," Kourieh said.
"The presidents discussed the negative attitude of the Israeli government towards the peace process," he added.
Mubarak–who arrived in Damascus earlier on Wednesday on a previously unannounced visit–was accompanied by Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri–Foreign Minister Amr Moussa and Information Minister Safwat el-Sherif.
The Egyptian leader’s visit comes ahead of next week’s meetings that US President Bill Clinton is due to hold with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
Syria has denounced Netanyahu–who took office in June 1996–and said no talks would be held with his government until he accepts full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Syria and Egypt say Netanyahu’s policy constitutes a violation of the basis on which the peace process was launched in Madrid in 1991.
Kourieh also quoted Assad and Mubarak as describing Israel’s naval maneuvers with Turkey and the United States–as affecting peace and security in the region.