US welcomes Israel-Syria peace talks

May 22nd, 2008 - 7:48 am ICT by admin  

Washington, May 22 (DPA) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the US welcomes fresh peace peace talks between Israel and Syria but was sceptical that negotiations could be successful as long as Damascus keeps backing terrorist groups. “There is not going to be a comprehensive peace if there continues to be support for terrorists,” Rice said at a press conference Wednesday with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Israel and Syria announced Wednesday that they were conducting indirect peace talks under the guidance of Turkey, in a renewed effort to move forward on comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.

The US has been sceptical about dealing with Syria because of its meddling in Lebanon and failure to halt the flow of militants into Iraq. Damascus is listed by the US State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Washington accuses Syria of supporting the militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and has been responsible for terrorist attacks against Israelis.

But the United States has not objected to the peace negotiations between Israel and Syria and welcomed the process.

“We think the expansion of the circle of peace would be a good thing,” Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said. “And of course it would be very, very helpful if that included an agreement with Syria.”

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the talks would be an opportunity to address concerns about Syria’s alleged backing of Hezbollah and Hamas, and could help to isolate the Iranian regime.

“What we hope is that this is a forum to address various concerns that we all share about Syria,” she said.

Welch said the United States would be willing to consider playing a mediating role in the Syrian-Israeli talks, but there has been no request for US assistance. Welch emphasized that Washington is focused on brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of the year.

US President George W. Bush relaunched the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in November and has since travelled twice to the region in an effort to keep the negotiations on track.

During the Middle East conference hosted by Bush last year in Annapolis, Maryland, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to set a goal of working toward a deal by the end of 2008.

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