Mitchell and Assad.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
As US envoy George Mitchell visited Damascus on Thursday to explore the
possibility of restarting an Israeli-Syrian diplomatic track, Defense
Ehud Barak, during a tour of the north, spoke optimistically about
prospects for a breakthrough toward peace on that front.
“On the eve of
Yom Kippur Israel is strong, self confident, ready and prepared for any
possibility, alongside extending our hand in peace,” Barak said.
Barak says peace with Lebanon, Syria is possible
Opinion: An opportunity for Syrian-Israeli peace
intend on overcoming the hurdles in the negotiations with the Palestinians, and
– alongside our readiness for all developments – believe that the time will come
when it will also be possible to make a breakthrough for peace with Syria and
Barak’s comments came as Mitchell stressed in Damascus that
Israeli-Palestinian peace would not come at the expense of peace with Syria ,
and argued the current Israeli-Palestinian talks help advance the cause of
“We believe very strongly that a foundation of goodfaith
negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis can and should support the entire
structure of comprehensive peace,” Mitchell said following his meetings with
Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
that foundation – which is being set in place just now as we speak – anything
that we would try to build with others in the region would not
Mitchell said he “assured” the president and foreign minister
that these efforts “in no way contradicts or conflicts with our goal of
comprehensive peace, including peace between Israel and
Mitchell’s trip to Syria, which came on the heels of his visit to
Egypt, Israel and Ramallah for the second round of direct talks between Israelis
and Palestinians earlier in the week, was the latest sign that the
administration is trying to advance the Syrian track as well.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a Channel 10 interview Thursday that
there have been conversations between Israel and the US, and Syria and the US,
“to determine whether there is a serious effort that could be
A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remains ready to enter into peace talks with the
Syrians without preconditions.
Some observers have suggested the
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks could spur Assad to restart peace negotiations
of his own – he suspended indirect talks with Israel during the 2007 Gaza war –
so that he doesn’t feel left out. Others, however, have predicted that the same
concerns could lead him to play the role of spoiler.
his discussion Thursday as a “very useful conversation” and said he
“frank appraisal” of how Israeli-Palestinian talks have progressed.
is true that the parties still have profound differences, but I have
impressed by their sincerity and seriousness of purpose,” he
Mitchell was scheduled to go from Damascus to Beirut for meetings
there with Lebanese leaders.