Israel trying to restart peace talks with Syria: minister

March 28th, 2008 - 4:53 pm ICT by admin  

Jerusalem, March 28 (DPA) Israel is trying to revive peace talks with Syria, which broke down in early 2000, an Israeli cabinet minister said Friday. “Israel is making every effort to return Syria to the discussion table,” National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio.

Speaking a day before the start of an Arab League summit in Damascus, Ben-Eliezer said the efforts were “permanent” and were being made through “mutual friends.”

He did not say what has become of the Israeli attempts, but noted that the government was aware that the price Israel would pay for a peace treaty with Syria was the return of the Golan Heights, captured in the 1967 war.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted Wednesday that Israel wanted to hold direct talks with Syria, possibly in secret.

The last round of Israeli-Syrian peace talks were held in January 2000, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and came to naught when the sides were unable to agree on the depth of the Israeli withdrawal from the Golan.

Syria insists that Israel withdraw entirely from the Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, and pull back as well to the north-eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which prior to the 1967 war was Syrian territory.

Israel refused in the 2000 talks to allow Syrians access to the Sea of Galilee, and demands that under any peace agreement Damascus end its support for Palestinian militant groups and stop providing arms to Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and bringing about the destabilising of Lebanon.

According to the Israeli foreign ministry, Jerusalem also insists Syria end its support of terrorism in Iraq, “and relinquish the strategic ties it is building with the extremist regime in Iran”.

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