Israel welcomes Syria joining ME forum

Rice hopes Damascus will be among participants; Eisin: We have "no problem" with anyone invited.

September 24, 2007 01:58
1 minute read.
Israel welcomes Syria joining ME forum

Rice quartet 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

Israel on Monday welcomed a US announcement that Syria will be invited to an upcoming Mideast peace conference, saying it has "no problem" sitting down with its archenemy. Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, said Israel supported the American gesture to Syria. "We have no problem with whomever the United States decides to include at the international meeting," she said. On Sunday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed hope that key Arab nations, including Syria, would attend the Mideast conference this fall hosted by US President George W. Bush. Rice said invitations had not been issued yet, but "we would hope that the invitations would include the members of the Arab follow-up committee ... charged by the Arab League with following up with the international community on an Arab Peace Initiative" to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The committee members are Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. Only two, Egypt and Jordan, have peace deals with Israel and some, notably Syria and Saudi Arabia, remain technically at war with the Jewish state. The Mideast Quartet, comprised of the US, EU, UN and Russia issued a statement saying it was fully supportive of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's ongoing talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also expressing hope that the conference would be a success. The Quartet, represented by Rice, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, also called on Israel to continue giving "essential aid" to the Gaza Strip and expressed its concern for the effect that closed border crossings between the Strip and Israel were having on the Palestinian economy. Israel Radio reported that during the two hour meeting, Quartet members also expressed "grave concern" over the continued Palestinian rocket fire on southern Negev Israeli towns. Before the meeting began, Solana said that "core issues," including borders, Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees should be discussed with all seriousness, because "failure would turn the clock back by years".

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