syrian troops 298.88 AP.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Tuesday that Israel would agree to engage in peace talks with Syria in the event of an official Syrian approach.
According to the senior Labor Party member, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would agree to hold negotiations if the Syrians entered without pre-conditions and only if the recognition of Israel's right to exist were promised, Army Radio reported.
Columnists' blog: Should Israel talk with Syria?
On Saturday, Syrian President Bashar Assad said he was ready to negotiate with Israel. In an interview with Spanish newspaper El-Pais, Assad said it would take six months to reach an agreement with Israel. If a peace agreement would not be reached, he added, war would break out.
With that, Ben-Eliezer also said that Israel must take into account Assad's recent threats towards Israel, and prepare accordingly.
According to Assad, "Two sides are responsible for the current situation (with Israel) - not just one side. The situation is based on one topic only, the peace processâ€¦ and perhaps war if no peace is established."
The Syrian leader said that Syria's vision has so far proven itself, as opposed to the failed Israeli dream that is based on military power.
"We have a clear vision, and events have proven that we foresee the future in the right direction. It is not based on the ideas of strength and weakness, but rather it is based upon values, history and human ambition, while the Israeli dream, unfortunately, is based solely on a strong army."
He also said that he has increased the number of troops on the border with Lebanon, a move apparently aimed at appeasing international demands to bolster security following the Israel-Hizbullah war.
But the troop movement was still likely to draw criticism from the US and Iraqi governments, as Assad said Syria shifted forces away from its eastern border with Iraq to fortify its frontier with Lebanon.
"We have strengthened the border with Lebanon, but of course, this made us move some of our forces guarding the border with Iraq to the border with Lebanon," Assad said.
Earlier Tuesday, Ben-Eliezer said he foresaw a renewal of hostilities with Hizbullah within the next several months, and that the presence of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon would not ensure Israel's security.
Assad said other nations "should have faith in Syria" over controlling its borders.
In the interview, Assad also said the United States "was not a fair co-sponsor" of the stalled Mideast peace process and called on Europe to take an active role.
"Regrettably there is not another international power that can replace it (the US), and at the same time, the United States should not be alone, and here is where Europe's role comes in," he said.