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    Israel's Prime Minister Olmert to push for more Syria talks

    HotNewsTurkey with wires
    31.10.2008 - 09:51 | Son Güncelleme:

    Israel’s caretaker prime minister Ehud Olmert believes peace talks with Syria should continue even though elections are pending, Israeli officials said on Friday. (UPDATED)

    Olmert will remain in office as caretaker until a new government is formed after a mid-February election. He wants to avoid a diplomatic vacuum for this period, officials added.

     

    "The prime minister believes in the importance of continuing the process of negotiations with Syria," Reuters quoted Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert, as saying.
     

    Turkey has so far hosted four rounds of indirect talks between Israel and Syria with the aim of bringing the bitter enemies together for direct talks, but contacts have been suspended for months because of political upheaval in Israel.

     

    A source in Olmert's office said the Israeli leader had told Syria via European officials that he wanted to resume Turkish-mediated talks that took place earlier this year, and had "received a positive indication" from the Syrians.

     

    Israeli media reported Friday that Olmert planned to ask Turkey next week to arrange another round of talks. Regev did not deny the reports but would not comment further.

     

    Olmert’s political opponents say he should freeze negotiations as his days in office are numbered.

     

    Direct Israeli negotiations with Syria broke down in 2000 in a dispute over the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured in the 1967 war and later annexed, and whose return Syria demands as part of a peace deal.

     

    Many analysts believe the forthcoming change in the U.S. administration may give new impetus to a change in relations with Syria on the part of both Washington and its Israeli ally.

     

    Syrian officials were not available for comment Friday. But the Syrians have indicated they might not agree to resume talks with an Israeli prime minister who has almost no clout.

     

    "This process cannot be resumed before the political crisis in Israel is solved," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem was quoted by AP as telling a news conference in London on Monday, following talks with his British counterpart.

     

    In Israel, Olmert’s critics said he was overstepping his authority as a caretaker prime minister.

     

    "A transition government perhaps has legal standing, but it certainly does not have the public and moral standing to make great changes and commit the people and the state to things that affect the coming generations," lawmaker Reuven Rivlin of the hardline Likud Party told Army Radio.

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