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Next round of talks to take place in August

Latest update : 2008-07-30

Syria and Israel agreed to hold a fifth round of talks in Turkey mid-August. But they failed to take the next step and enter face-to-face negotiations.

 

ISTANBUL - Israel and Syria will hold their next indirect peace talks in Turkey in mid-August after failing to move on to face-to-face negotiations, a source close to the talks said on Wednesday.

 

The fourth round of Turkish-mediated talks ended in Istanbul on Wednesday, the source said.

The long-time foes launched the talks in May but have not agreed to hold direct negotiations.

 

"The fourth round has ended. It was positive. The fifth round will be in mid-August, and again indirect," said the source, who declined to be named.

 

The source said he also expected a sixth round in September, but did not specify whether that round would be face-to-face.

 

"When the process moves to direct talks it means we are very close to a solution," the source said.

 

Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment. The Turkish Foreign Ministry was expected to issue a statement later in the day.

 

Negotiations centre on the fate of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Damascus demands the return of all the Golan.

 

Israel, in turn, wants Syria to scale back ties with the Jewish state's main foes -- Iran, the Palestinian group Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. Syria has so far refused to do so.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called on Damascus on Tuesday to break with Iran in favour of a broader peace.

 

He also described the fresh round of Israeli-Syrian talks as "serious and practical".

 

But a Turkish government source, who declined to be named, told Reuters on Tuesday Olmert's uncertain political future and the apparent reluctance by the Syrians to rush into direct talks made it more difficult to swiftly reach the next stage.

 

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has stepped up a campaign to replace Olmert, who faces a police investigation that could force him out of office.

Date created : 2008-07-30

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