Suleiman presents possible peace deal

Syrian American says nation will stop terror support if Israel quits Golan.

April 12, 2007 00:54
1 minute read.
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Syrian American Abe Suleiman, a US-based Syrian citizen considered an associate of Syrian President Bashar Assad's father, presented the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee with possible scenarios for a peace deal with Syria, Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On said Thursday. Gal-On said that according to Suleiman, Syria would cease its support for terror organizations and join the global fight against terror, as well as cutting ties to Hizbullah. Syria would, in turn, demand that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights. Likud MK Yisrael Katz said following the meeting with Suleiman that he had asked the representative to tell Assad that Israel would never leave the Golan Heights. "I've gotten 61 MKs to promise their opposition to a withdrawal from the Golan, and there's a strong majority in favor of that position in the Knesset. It's important that Assad know that," Katz said. Suleiman's meeting with the FADC was the first time in Knesset history that a citizen of an enemy state testified before the committee. Suleiman represented Syria in secret, unofficial and unsanctioned peace talks between 2004 and 2006 with an Israeli delegation led by former Foreign Ministry director-general Alon Liel, who will also address the committee. Suleiman and Liel briefed the committee on understandings reached on an outline of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. Both Israel and Syrian officially distanced themselves from the talks that ended last summer, and a tentative deal based on a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in return for normalized relations. Suleiman, a prominent Syrian-American businessman living in Maryland, has been to Israel before but this was his first publicized visit. The invitation for Suleiman to address the committee came from Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On. Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) stressed that he supported Israel's position that the time was not right to resume peace talks with Syria. "But it is important for the committee not to silence other views," Hanegbi told Israel Radio, "particularly when the man outlining these views claims to have direct access to the Syrian leadership." Suleiman did not claim to represent the Syrian government during the discussions, but did reportedly update certain Syrian officials on the contacts. Since his arrival on Tuesday, Suleiman has toured Jerusalem. On Wednesday, he toured Yad Vashem, accompanied by Liel. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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