Olmert says ready to negotiate with Syria directly

June 19th, 2008 - 5:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, June 19 (DPA) Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he is ready to negotiate directly with Syria to strike a peace deal in the region. “If there is one chance to achieve a political agreement, we must seize it,” Olmert told the daily Le Figaro. “We know what the Syrians expect. And I think that (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad knows what we expect.”

“We are serious. This is why I do not want to hold indirect negotiations indefinitely. For them to be serious, we must move on to direct contacts,” he said.

Olmert said that he had promised French President Nicolas Sarkozy that he would travel to Paris for the July 13 summit meeting of the planned Union for the Mediterranean, where he and al-Assad will presumably sit at the same table.

But Olmert refused to commit himself to talking directly with the Syrian president on that occasion.

A senior foreign policy advisor at the Elysee Palace said Assad had told him that there would be no direct talks with Olmert, with or without Sarkozy, in Paris in July.

Indirect negotiations, through the mediation of Turkey, have not yet sufficiently evolved, the advisor said.

“When we have agreed with the Syrians on a precise agenda and on the points we will discuss, then it will be time to launch direct contacts,” Olmert told Le Figaro. “We are not far away from that.”

The Israeli prime minister noted, however, that if no political agreement is reached, it would probably come to renewed hostilities in the region.

“The fact that Syria has positioned itself in the axis of evil, that it has sabotaged the political process in Lebanon, supported Hamas and facilitated the terrorism against Americans in Iraq can only evolve into a violent confrontation or a political process,”Olmert said.

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