Syria's President Assad eyes direct peace talks with Israel on condition

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Syrias President Assad eyes direct peace talks with Israel on condition
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Aralık 22, 2008 16:48

Syria would eventually embark on direct peace talks with Israel, but they must be based on U.N. Security Council resolutions, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday.

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"Peace cannot be achieved through indirect negotiations alone. But if indirect talks succeed then direct negotiations will also, and peace will come naturally," Assad was quoted by AFP as telling a news conference with visiting Croatian President Stipe Mesic. 


In May, Syria and Israel, technically still at war since the first Arab-Israeli conflict in 1948, began Turkish-mediated indirect talks after direct negotiations halted eight years ago over the thorny Golan Heights issue.


Four rounds of indirect talks have been held this year. They were suspended after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced he would step down. No new date has been set and Assad did not say when the indirect talks would resume.


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Olmert was due in Ankara on Monday to meet his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan about the indirect talks.


Olmert, who said last week "a peace accord with Syria was within the realm of possibility," will remain in office until a new government is formed following the Israeli election on February 10.


"It is essential to apply resolutions by the U.N. Security Council" on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Assad said on Monday.


In exchange for peace Syria is demanding the return of the entire Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in 1981 in a move unrecognized by the international community.


But Israel has baulked at this, since it would mean returning land right down to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, its main source of fresh water.


Assad also stressed the role of Europe in the peace process, saying: "Israel-Europe relations must be linked to Israels acceptance of U.N. resolutions."


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Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 call on Israel to withdraw from Arab territory it captured in the 1967 war.


Assad also said Europe should work to end the "unjust" Israeli blockade on Gaza and urged the incoming administration of U.S. president-elect Barack Obama to focus on the Middle East peace process.


"We also hope this administration has a clear vision to resolve the problem in Iraq, withdrawing its forces and creating a political process that ensures stability and Iraqi territorial integrity," he added.



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