RIYADH, Jan. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Saudi Arabia and Syria issued a joint statement on Sunday to highlight the need for strong Beirut-Damascus ties and cooperation for security and stability in the Middle East.
The statement was issued at the end of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's short visit to Saudi Arabia and his talks with Saudi King Abdullah II in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
Before Assad's visit earlier in the day, Saudi Foreign MinisterPrince Saud al-Faisal paid a lightning visit to Damascus and held talks with Assad on the latest developments concerning the United Nations investigation into the killing of Lebanese ex-premier Rafik al-Hariri.
During the Jeddah summit, King Abdullah called for an end to the crisis in Syrian-Lebanese relations over Hariri's murder, as Assad is facing mounting international pressure over the Hariri case, with a UN probe into the assassination wanting to interview him over his alleged role.
The Saudi-Syrian joint statement also called for Israeli troop withdrawal to the pre-1967 Arab-Israeli war borders as well as from the Lebanese Shebaa Farms in accordance with the Arab peace initiative floated during the Beirut summit in 2002.
The two Arab states renewed calls for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with al-Quds (East Jerusalem) as its capital city, said the statement.
Saudi Arabia, a regional heavyweight, is a close ally with the United State and its King Abdullah has close ties with Syria.The slain Hariri had Saudi citizenship and was an intimate friend to the Saudi royal family.
Saudi Arabia has played an important role in persuading Syria to agree to start cooperation with the UN probe into Hariri's killing.
Pressures on Syria has aggravated again recently as former VicePresident Abdel Halim Khaddam, who lives in Paris with his family,accused Assad of being involved in Hariri's killing in a massive truck bomb in February 2004.
Syrian intelligence services could not carry out such an operation without Assad being informed, Khaddam said.Following the allegation, the UN commission in Beirut had askedto interview Assad.
However, Assad denied the accusation in an interview with Egyptian weekly al-Obsou and hinted meanwhile that he would be immune from questioning by the UN team.
Meanwhile, Syria has reportedly rejected the UN request to question Assad but agreed to let Shara be quizzed. Damascus has made no official confirmation on the reports.
Outgoing chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis submitted two interim reports in October and December 2005, accusing Syrian and Lebanese officials of being involved in the killing of Hariri.The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1636 unanimously, which demands full Syrian cooperation, threatening unspecified "further action" if Damascus fails to comply.
Syria has denied any role in Hariri's death and dismissed the UN charge of slow cooperation as "inaccurate." Enditem