DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrian President Bashar Assad (search) on Wednesday accused the Israeli government of following "the policies of escalation and extremism," making the Middle East a more dangerous place.
In a speech at a banquet honoring Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (search), Assad turned to Syria's recurring theme that Israel and its occupation of war-conquered Arab lands were at the core of Palestinian-Israeli violence and turmoil throughout the region.
Assad accused Israel (search) of rejecting an Arab willingness to make peace. He claimed that tension throughout the region was due to "the policies of escalation and extremism the Israeli government follows and its actions of aggression on the Arab people in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria."
The Syrian president warned that Israeli policies portended "the most dangerous consequences if a rational, international will is not available to put an end to them," according to the official Syrian Arab New Agency, SANA.
Assad charged that "the thing that caused the region to lose its stability, ruined its natural course of development and consumed all its development was Israel's occupation of Arab lands and its refusal to comply with the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace."
Silva, who's on a Mideast tour aimed at bolstering trade and his country's campaign for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, called for "an effective U.N. role in solving the problems of the region," SANA said.
Silva said his country was ready to cooperate with Syria and other Arab countries to boost trade with them. Brazilian Foreign Ministry officials say Silva is expected to propose a trade summit of Latin and Mideast leaders.