Israeli leaders ‘satisfied’ with Miliband’s pressure on Syria

Any questions on strategy? David Miliband talks to pupils at a bilingual school in Jerusalem last Wednesday

Any questions on strategy? David Miliband talks to pupils at a bilingual school in Jerusalem last Wednesday

Israeli leaders have expressed their satisfaction with the results of Foreign Secretary David Miliband's visit to the Middle East this week.

They were especially pleased that the Foreign Secretary demanded the Syrians act to prevent the arms deliveries from Iran to Hizbollah being transferred through their territory.

Mr Miliband spent three days in the region visiting Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon and Syria. In Israel he met Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Likud Leader Binyamin Netanyahu.

In a show of solidarity, Mr Miliband also visited the town of Sderot which this week was once again under fire from Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip and talked about "the suffering of the Israelis on the one hand, symbolised here, but the suffering of the Palestinians as well.

"The only solution to that suffering is the two-state solution that has been at the heart of the conflict here over the past 40 years."

In Ramallah, his third visit to the West Bank town, he met President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and stressed the importance of maintaining the fragile five-month ceasefire along the Gaza border.

Referring to ongoing bilateral talks between Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas, Mr Miliband added: "The discussions you have had today seem to be a very important contribution to that."

He also stressed the importance of the coming months, pointing out that 2009 will see a new administration in the United States and a new government in Israel.

During Mr Miliband's visit to Syria, the first by a British foreign minister for seven years, where he met President Bashar Assad, he stressed the need for Syria to continue its indirect peace talks with Israel.

"Syria has a big potential role to play in stability in the Middle East," he told the BBC. "It can be a force for stability or it can be a force for instability.

"Over the past 18 months I've been talking with the Syrian foreign minister about her responsibilities in the region, in respect of terrorism, in respect of Iraq, in respect of the Middle East peace process, and we've got the chance now to take those discussions further forward."

Israeli diplomatic sources stressed that no message had been sent to Syria through Mr Miliband and that all the negotiations were going through Turkey only.

    Last updated: 11:54am, March 4 2009

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