Syria open to resuming Israel talks

Peace talks with Israel must lead to the return of the Golan Heights, Syria's foreign minister says.

    Walid Al-Mouallem was speaking in New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly's meeting [AFP] 

    Syria is willing to resume peace talks with Israel if they are geared towards Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, the country's foreign minister has said.

    Walid al-Muallim said that Damascus would be interested in restarting negotiations with Tel Aviv if "Syria found an Israeli partner who is committed to the conditions of the peace process," and "possesses the political will to reach peace".

    Syria will not accept any agreement with Israel that did not involve the end to the occupation of parts of the Golan Heights claimed by Damascus, Muallim said, adding that he had addressed the issue with Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.  

    "The Golan Heights are not subject to negotiations and are not put forth for bargaining," Muallim told the Syrian state news agency. "Admitting the obligation to fully surrendering them is the foundation on which arrangements for the peace process should be based."

    Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has said that his government will not enter into talks with Syria that have pre-conditions. Syria broke off Turkish-mediated peace talks with Israel after the assault by the Israeli military on a aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip that left nine people dead earlier this year.

    Muallim's comments come as the US steps up efforts to persuade Syria to back its plans in the Middle East. Hillary Clinton met her Syrian counterpart to discuss Iran, Lebanon and latest round of Arab-Israeli peace talks.

    The Syrian position on many of these issues is problematic for the US, with Damascus opposing indictments from UN investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, as well as expressing doubts over the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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