Thursday, April 24, 2008

Israel to cede Golan for peace: Syria

Go to The Australian original
ISRAELI Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has notified Damascus of his readiness to withdraw completely from the Golan Heights in return for peace, a Syrian cabinet minister declared yesterday.

Expatriates Minister Buthaina Shaaban said Mr Olmert had delivered his message to Damascus via Turkish intermediaries.

"Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights in full to Syria," she declared. Israeli officials declined to confirm or deny the report.

The statement by Ms Shaaban, who frequently serves as spokeswoman for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, was preceded earlier by two Syrian press reports along the same line.

Following Ms Shaaban's comments, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in Tehran that if Israel was prepared to return to the pre-Six Day War borders, "there is nothing preventing a renewal of negotiations". Israel captured 1200sqkm on the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War.

Mr Olmert has in the past declined to respond to reports that secret peace negotiations with the Syrians were under way. However, he indicated "messages" had passed between Jerusalem and Damascus.

"They know what I want from them and I know what they want from us," Mr Olmert said last week. "What I can say is that I'm very interested in peace with the Syrians and I hope my efforts will ripen into significant progress."

Previous Israeli prime ministers have negotiated, both directly and indirectly, with Damascus and reportedly come to broad agreement on most issues.


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