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Mofaz: more Syria talks without preconditions

Latest update : 2008-08-02

Israel's deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz has said that his country should be able to continue its Turkish-mediated peace talks with Syria without preconditions, during a visit to Washington for talks with US officials.

Israel should continue its Turkish-mediated indirect peace talks with Syria without preconditions, Israel's deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said here Friday.

"We have to negotiate with Syria but without preconditions," Mofaz told a gathering at a US think tank, during a visit to the US capital for talks with US officials.

"My opinion and my goal will be to continue to speak with the Syrians without preconditions," Mofaz said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"I believe in peace and for achieving peace. ... And I will do my best to bring peace to the state of Israel," he added.

Israeli and Syrian officials completed a fourth round of Turkish-mediated indirect talks in Turkey on Wednesday and agreed to resume negotiations in August, a Turkish diplomat said.

The two sides agreed to hold a fifth round of talks in August, again indirectly, he said.

Under the format of the talks, which started in May after an eight-year freeze, Israeli and Syrian officials do not see each other and Turkish diplomats shuttle between the two sides.

Turkish officials have said that face-to-face talks would become possible if sufficient progress is recorded.

Syria said in May that it had received an Israeli commitment for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which it seized four decades ago. Israeli officials have been tight-lipped on the controversial issue.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said Israel is willing to make "major concessions," seen as a reference to the Golan Heights, seized in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981 -- a move never recognized by the international community.

In exchange for peace, Syria is demanding that Israel return the strategic Golan Heights.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in July said he would not "cede a single inch of territory or make any concession on Syria's sovereignty over the Golan."

He also said Washington and Paris could contribute to a peace deal but ruled out direct negotiations with Israel before a new US president takes office next January
 

Date created : 2008-08-02