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Netanyahu hints at possible Syria talks during Paris trip

Video by Luke BROWN

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-11-12

Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke for two hours on Wednesday in Paris, with Netanyahu saying he was ready to restart talks with Syria, according to an Israeli official.

AFP - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday he was ready to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad, a senior Israeli official said, raising the possibility of renewing long-delayed peace negotiations.

The Israeli official quoted Netanyahu from comments at a meeting in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who pressed ahead in their 90-minute session with a U.S.-led effort to bring a resumption of the stalled Middle East talks.

“Sarkozy raised the Syrian track, and Netanyahu replied he was ready to meet with Assad anywhere, anytime, on the basis that there are no preconditions,” the Israeli official told reporters travelling with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu had flown to Paris from Washington where he met with President Barack Obama about so-far failed efforts to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stalled since December and still snared in a dispute over Israeli settlement construction.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak seemed to echo Netanyahu’s intent in a speech in Tel Aviv, in which he said on Wednesday that Israel “ought not make light of the signs of readiness for peace coming recently from Damascus”.

Assad, who is expected in Paris on Thursday for two days of talks including with Sarkozy, has expressed interest in renewing negotiations with Israel alongside moves to steer Syria out of Western isolation.

Israel and Syria held inconclusive talks which faltered in  2000 over Syria’s demand for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured in a 1967 war and later annexed.

Turkey later mediated a limited series of contacts between the two countries, which failed to result in any formal negotiations.

Israel accuses Syria of helping to arm its militant enemies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip—the Hezbollah guerrilla group and Hamas Islamists, and has in the past demanded such assistance be halted as a condition for holding peace talks.

Date created : 2009-11-11

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