Israel hopes for wearly talks with Syria

July 13th, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, July 13 (DPA) Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday he expected direct negotiations with Syria to start “soon”. “We have began a process of negotiations with Syria. They are indirect now, but they will become direct soon,” Olmert said after a meeting in Paris with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The comment came one day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in Paris that the time for such talks “was not yet ripe”.

Leaders from all of the countries facing the Mediterranean Sea, as well as all European Union (EU) heads of state and government, have been invited to Paris to attend the launch of the Union of the Mediterranean, a French-sponsored project designed to strengthen ties between the EU and its southern neighbours.

And while there have been no handshakes between Olmert and Assad in Paris yet, Sarkozy noted the fact that they were all meeting around the same table and in the same hall represented an “historic” occasion.

“It doesn’t mean that all of the issues have been settled,” Sarkozy said, but “we are learning to like, rather than hate, each other”.

Syria and Israel have already taken a first step towards rapprochement by holding indirect talks mediated by Turkey. And Sarkozy hopes to use the meeting in Paris to advance the talks further.

Syria, however, sees the current US administration of George W. Bush as an obstacle to peace in the region and insists that progress can only be made once a new president is installed in Washington next year.

Abbas said both Israel and the Palestinian Authority were committed to achieving results.

“It is now up to us to secure peace for the people of Palestine and Israel,” Abbas said.

“We have never been so close to reaching an agreement as we are today,” Olmert added.

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