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Last updated: 2002-12-12

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Board has expressed its concerns regarding the forthcoming visit of President Assad of Syria. Syria remains a secular dictatorship with one of the world’s worst human rights records and President Assad has repeatedly failed to normalise relations with Israel.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Director General Neville Nagler pointed out that President Assad has personally been responsible for a series of highly inflammatory anti-Semitic statements. The Syrian media is fuelled by anti-Semitic articles and caricatures, comparisons of Israel with the Nazis, Holocaust denial and the perpetuation of the myth of blood libel.

The Board letter highlights Syria’s support for a number of known and active terrorist organisations. It provides the Lebanese militia Hezbollah with substantial amounts of financial and political aid as well as training, weapons and explosives. President Assad has flouted international calls to curb Hezbollah aggression against Israel. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Islamic Jihad also have their headquarters in Damascus.

Neville Nagler commented: “We have asked the Prime Minister to make clear to President Assad, in the strongest terms, the unacceptable nature of his comments which embody the most vicious kind of anti-Semitism. He should also be told that moves towards a peaceful outcome in the Middle East are being undermined by his continued support for terrorist organisations currently engaged in the murder of innocent Israeli civilians on a daily basis. We have also asked Mr. Blair to raise the issue of the missing Israeli servicemen, whose fate or whereabouts are almost certainly known to Mr. Assad. We urge him to do everything possible to end the suffering of these captives and their families.

“We shall be raising similar issues in a letter to Mr. Assad which we hope to deliver during his visit.”