'Turkey could host Israel-Syria talks'

Reuters quotes Turkish FM as saying, "If the two countries agree, we can do it."

January 30, 2010 05:36
2 minute read.
Erdogan Assad

Erdogan Assad . (photo credit: AP)

Turkey is ready to try again to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Syria if both countries agree to resume the stalled initiative, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted by Reuters as saying Friday.

Davutoglu said the IDF's 2008 operation in scuttled a potential peace deal after mediated in indirect talks between Israel and Syria.

"Is it possible to restart it again? Yes, why not?" Davutoglu said in response to a question about the talks.

"If the two countries agree to restart it, we can do it. As , we are ready," Davutoglu said at the International Institute of Strategic Studies think tank in .

"The Syrian side already declared they want to continue from where we left [off]. The Israeli side, they have different views. Some coalition members are against, some are in favor. We will see," he said.

"If we see a strong political will, both in and , we will continue to support [peace efforts]. We will support every attempt, step in the direction of peace."

Israel and Syria held four indirect rounds of peace talks with Turkish mediation in 2008, but they were suspended following the resignation of then-prime minister Ehud Olmert in September of that year.

Syria said at the time of Operation Cast Lead that it ruled out a resumption of the indirect talks any time soon.

But more recently, Syrian President Bashar Assad has expressed interest in renewing negotiations with Israel.

Syria wants an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the whole of the Golan Heights, the Syrian plateau that conquered in the 1967 Six Day War.

Israel has said it was willing to resume the talks without preconditions.

George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, discussed reviving peace talks between and last week with Assad, who said had to "declare frankly" it wants peace.

Muslim but secular, Turkey has a history of military cooperation with and has acted as an intermediary for the Jewish state with the Arab world.

But relations have soured recently as repeatedly criticized Operation Cast Lead.

Turkey has meanwhile improved its ties with Syria, making Israeli officials wary of resuming a mediation role.

Davutoglu repeated that the Israel-Syria peace talks had been making progress when launched the offensive.

Turkey was "concerned with the policies of because of Israel," he said, adding: "Criticizing one policy of an Israeli government does not mean the end of Turkish-Israel relations."

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