Former US Secretary of State John Kerry revealed on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad sent former US President Barack Obama a secret proposal for peace with Israel in 2010, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Haaretz reported that Kerry’s new memoirs, which was published on Tuesday, outlines the details of the proposal, which was also presented to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to Kerry, Netanyahu found the proposal “surprising” because it showed that Al-Assad was ready to make more concessions than in previous negotiations.
Haaretz said that Al-Assad formulated the letter a year before the outbreak of the war in Syria. It added that Syria and Israel had been engaged in US-backed negotiations until the beginning of 2011, but they eventually did not reach any agreements or understandings.
In his memoirs, “Every Day Is Extra,” Kerry wrote extensively about Syria, describing it an “open wound,” which Obama’s administration has neglected and an issue, “he has been thinking about every day,” according to the same newspaper.
Kerry said that in 2009 when he was Chairman of US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, he visited Damascus as part of a Middle East tour and held his first long meeting with Al-Assad, who was in power for a decade at that time.
He added: “I confronted him about the Syrian nuclear power plant that Israel had bombed,” referring to the Syrian nuclear reactor that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government destroyed in 2007.
Kerry explained that the fact that the station was a nuclear power plant is indisputable, but Al-Assad “denied it, and unswervingly lied about it.”
Kerry said that during their second meeting, he talked with Al-Assad about his support for the Lebanese Hezbollah group. He added that Al-Assad responded by saying, “everything can be negotiated,” suggesting that his policy could change as a result of negotiations with Israel, according to Haaretz.
Kerry added: “Al-Assad asked me: ‘what would it take to enter into serious peace negotiations, in the hope of ensuring the return of the Golan Heights, which Syria lost in favour of Israel in 1967?’”
Kerry continued: “I told him that if he was serious, he had to make a special suggestion. Al-Assad asked: ‘what would it look like?’ We discussed the matter, and then he ordered his senior assistant to send a letter from him to President Obama.”
Kerry said that Al-Assad asked Obama in the letter to support renewed peace talks with Israel and expressed Syria’s readiness “to take some measures to get back the Golan from Israel.”
Kerry pointed out in his memoirs that “Al-Assad’s father, Hafez, tried many times to restore the Golan, but he failed. Therefore, he wanted to do a lot to restore it.”
Kerry noted that, after his meeting with Al-Assad, he immediately went to Israel and informed Prime Minister Netanyahu about the meeting.
Kerry said: “The next day I left to Israel, met with Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and showed him Al-Assad’s letter.”
Kerry added: “He was surprised that Al-Assad was ready to go that far, much more than before.”
According to Kerry, after showing Al-Assad’s letter to Netanyahu, he brought it back to Washington.
He went on saying that “Obama’s administration tried to test out Al-Assad’s seriousness by asking the Syrian president to take confidence-building measures towards the United States and Israel, including the stop of some weapon shipments to Hezbollah. However, Al-Assad disappointed the administration for failing to fulfil his promises.”
In a part of his memoirs, Kerry described Al-Assad in very negative terms, reflecting his behaviour throughout the brutal war in Syria.
Kerry said about him: “A man who lies in your face four feet away from you can easily lie to the world after he has suffocated his people to death with gas weapons.”
Kerry pointed out that in response to Al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his people in the summer of 2013, he and most senior national security officials defended the idea of launching a military attack against Al-Assad, in line with Obama’s consideration of the use of chemical weapons as a “red line”.
He said that Obama hesitated, especially after it became clear that such a move would not gain overwhelming support in the Congress.
In the conclusion of his talk about Syria in his memoirs, Kerry said that at the end of Obama’s term, while Donald Trump was preparing to enter the White House, “diplomacy to save Syria had died, and Syria’s wounds remained open.”
He went on: “Every day, I think about how we should have covered those wounds, and how the world can now cure them.”