DAMASCUS, July 13 (Reuters) – Syria’s deputy foreign minister said in remarks published on Wednesday his country wanted Lebanon to join it in any peace talks with Israel. “The Syrian and Lebanese tracks have not separated and the reason is very clear,” Waleed al-Mualem told Syria’s Al Thawra and Kuwait’s al-Anbaa newspapers in a joint interview.  “When we negotiate with the Israeli enemy together we can achieve better results.” Mualem voiced confidence that Lebanon, now clear of Syrian troops for the first time in three decades, would not sign any separate peace with Israel under U.S. influence.  “Lebanon has a choice now: either the American direction, which means Israel — a remote possibility because of what we know of the Lebanese people — or the Arab direction. Syria will be the bridge for Lebanon in the Arab direction,” he said.Syria withdrew its forces from Lebanon in April under intense international pressure following the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February. Previously the main powerbroker in its smaller neighbour for three decades, Syria has always opposed any separate peace agreement between Lebanon and Israel.  Mualem said such an agreement was the real agenda of U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, whose demands were partly fulfilled by the end to Syria’s 29-year military presence in Lebanon. The measure also calls for the dismantling of all militias in Lebanon, mainly anti-Israel Hizbollah guerrillas.
“This resolution aims at setting Lebanon for a partial settlement with Israel such as that of May 17, 1983, but a wide majority of the Lebanese people still stand to say that Lebanon will be the last Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel,” Mualem said.

Lebanon, then still under partial Israeli occupation, signed a U.S.-brokered peace accord with Israel in 1983, but abrogated it the following year after an uprising by Syrian-backed militias.

Mualem reiterated that Syria was willing to renew peace talks with Israel but said the Jewish state was not interested.

Israel has dismissed Syrian calls for the resumption of talks that faltered in 2000 over the future of Golan Heights, under Israeli occupation since the 1967 Middle East war.