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    Turkey: "common ground" found in Israel-Syria talks

    Hurriyet English with wires
    22.05.2008 - 11:33 | Son Güncelleme:

    A common ground was reached in Israel and Syria talks that were held in Istanbul during the week and the indirect talks between the two countries would continue, the Turkish foreign minister said on Thursday. (UPDATED)

    "Both sides were satisfied that the talks -- which went on for three days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Istanbul -- resulted in finding a common ground," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told reporters.

    "The talks will continue periodically," he added. 

    Israel and Syria said on Wednesday in coordinated announcements that they had begun indirect talks in Turkey, the first confirmation of negotiations between the long-time enemies in eight years. Although the talks received a warm welcome by the international community signals show that a rocky road is ahead.

    Israel set terms for concluding a peace deal with Syria on Thursday, closing ranks with Washington in demanding Damascus distance itself from Iran and stop supporting Palestinian and Lebanese militants.

    Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday Israel wanted to live in peace with its neighbors but Syria needed to "distance itself completely" from "problematic ties" with Iran

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem claimed Damascus had received Israeli commitments for a full withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights, seized four decades ago, though Israeli officials have been tight-lipped on the controversial issue.

    Babacan declined to comment on the topics the two sides discussed, saying only that "the basic philosophy is peace for land and land for peace."

    Face-to-face negotiations "will become possible if concrete, satisfactory progress is obtained in this process," he said, adding that the indirect talks will continue in Istanbul unless the parties request another venue in Turkey. 

    "We will do our best for the successful completion of this process... Both sides place importance on Turkey being involved until the end," he said.

     

    UN WELCOMES

    U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday thanked Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for his efforts in the resumed peace talks mediated by Turkey after an eight-year freeze. Turkey's FM Ali Babacan called for patience over the course of the peace talks.

    "The secretary-general welcomes today's announcement confirming that Syria and Israel have started indirect peace talks, under the auspices of Turkey, aimed at a comprehensive peace in accordance with the Madrid Conference terms of reference for peace," his office said on Wednesday in a statement.

    Ban commended Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "for taking this important step and thanked (Turkish) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his efforts." 

    "One should not hurry about the contents of the talks which I believe would continue indirectly for some time," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told the Anatolian Agency after a summit of the heads of state and government of southeastern European countries in Bulgaria

    "We expect both sides to exert maximum effort to reach a settlement," he added.

    Photo: AA

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