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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Syria's Assad Holds Key to Middle East Peace

WASHINGTON -- In the end, the agreement to halt more than two weeks of bloodshed in southern Lebanon was contained in a document nobody signed, its details negotiated with a man whose motives remain unclear.

Not once during their announcement of Friday's truce ending fighting between Israel and Lebanon did Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres or Secretary of State Warren Christopher mention the name of Syrian President Hafez Assad.

But few would question that Assad more than anyone else holds the key to whether the Hezbollah guerrillas live up to their side of the bargain and halt their rocket attacks on Israel.

"For Assad this was a very glorious moment," said Judith Kipper, director of Middle East studies at the private Center for Strategic and International Studies. "All roads led to Damascus."

"There's a fair chance the truce will last," Peres said Sunday at the start of a visit to the United States.

He cited two reasons for the truce to hold: Lebanon's interest in protecting its civilians, and what he called Syria's track record for honoring agreements. It was a nod toward Assad, who decides whether his country will honor agreements.

Was there another route to a cease-fire in Lebanon? The actions of the United States and other governments involved in the search for calm in the Middle East make it clear they believe the only road to peace is through Damascus.

Assad rules a country the United States describes as a supporter of terrorism. Damascus, the capital, is a haven for terrorist groups. Yet, U.S. President Bill Clinton met there with Assad in hopes of persuading him to reconcile with Israel.

Not even Assad's abrupt and embarrassing snub of Christopher on Tuesday deterred the secretary of state from returning the next day to meet with him. Syrian president.

Kipper agreed there can be no peace without Syria. "But you don't have to give all the credit and all the glory to Assad," she said, criticizing the administration for spending so much time trying to persuade him to take the final steps toward ending the state of war with Israel.