Israel Postpones New Round of Talks with Syria

A fifth round of Turkish-brokered indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel has been postponed at the request of the Jewish state, Syria’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"When Israel is ready to resume the talks, we will be too because we want to build a solid base that will allow the launch of direct negotiations whatever the outcome of the Kadima party in Israel," Muallem told a press conference with his visiting Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos on Wednesday.

He was referring to the party of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, which was voting for a new leader on Wednesday after the premier he was stepping down to fight corruption charges.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sept. 4 the fifth round of indirect talks, originally scheduled for earlier this month, had been postponed at Israel’s request because of the resignation of Israel’s chief negotiator.

Israeli negotiator Yoram Turbowicz announced his resignation as Olmert’s chief of staff in July, shortly after the prime minister said he would leave office because of the charges against him.

In Jerusalem, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev declined to go into detail on the delay but said Israel hoped the indirect negotiations would go on.

"Israel remains committed to the Turkish initiative and to the indirect talks with the Syrians. We are hopeful that the next round of talks will be able to begin shortly," he said.

Syria has said that ultimately only Washington has the clout to sponsor direct talks, although it has been keen to win greater international support for the process.

"Syria has always called for a European role in the peace process equal to the U.S. one, as Europe is nearer to our region and has an interest in its security and stability," Muallem said.

Moratinos said the European Union was keen to do what it could to help advance the process.

The talks are focused on the fate of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel seized in 1967. Damascus wants the whole territory returned.

Israel wants Syria to scale back ties with its main foes — Iran and the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group. Syria has so far refused to do so.

The last direct talks between Israel and Syria stalled in 2000 in a dispute over how much of the Golan should go back to Syria.
 
(Agencies via Alarabiya.net)

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