Israel announces indirect peace talks with Syria

May 21st, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by admin  

Jerusalem, May 21 (DPA) Israel and Syria will begin indirect peace talks, after an eight-year break, under Turkish auspices, simultaneous statements from Ankara, Jerusalem and Damascus said Wednesday. “Both sides have declared their intention to hold these talks openly and in good faith,” a statement of the office of Israeli prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.

“They decided to hold a serious and continuous dialogue, with the intention of arriving at an embracing peace treaty, in accordance with the framework (laid down by the 1991) Madrid peace conference,” the statement continued.

Turkish diplomats have already been shuttling between the sides since April 2007, to find out whether there is enough basis to restart the negotiations which were broken off in March 2000.

Syrian President Bashar Assad confirmed to Qatar’s al-Watan newspaper last month that Israel and Syria have been exchanging messages though Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan since April 2007.

He said that if enough “common ground” was found between the sides then talks would be revived, but not in secret.

“Any talks will be public but not direct. Talks will be conducted through Turkey,” Assad told the daily.

The last round of peace talks between Israel and Syria collapsed because of a dispute over the future of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel which Israeli forces captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

Syria has demanded the return of the entire plateau, and all territory captured in 1967, as a prerequisite for peace, but Israel insists on retaining the north-eastern shore of the Sea of Galillee.

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