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(photo credit: GPO)
For the foreseeable future, negotiations between Israel and Syria would only further destabilize matters in the region, according to a member of the US administration.
The administration source, accompanying US President George W. Bush in Prague, said the Syrian issue would not be on the agenda when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visits Washington in two weeks. He was responding to calls in Israel in recent days in favor of engaging the Assad regime.
The US continues to believe that Syria should be isolated from the diplomatic process in the region until it severs ties with Hizbullah and Hamas. Talks between Israel and Syria would quickly break down, creating an explosive situation in which warfare between the two countries might break out, the source said. The US administration was aware of the fears within the Israeli intelligence community that an isolated Assad would launch a military attack on Israel, but didn't view that outcome as likely, the source added.
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In 2000, president Bill Clinton passed on an offer from prime minister Ehud Barak that Israel would retreat from almost the entire Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria. Similar ideas have been raised in the past, but the US does not believe an Israeli government could or should return the Golan to a regime with such strong terrorist ties.
Despite the recommendation of the Iran Study Group's Baker-Hamilton report that the US should reengage Syria as part of its efforts to end the insurgency in Iraq, Bush is determined not to have any official US representative hold talks with the regime. He recently said various international envoys had visited Damascus in recent months but the Syrian policy hadn't changed.
The US administration is still pushing for talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and believes that talks with Syria will only serve to deflect attention from the Palestinian channel.
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