'Israel and Syria both want peace'

Turkish FM tells TV station both sides have political will, says 4th round of talks to be held soon.

babacan 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
babacan 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel and Syria both have "the political will" to end tensions between them and will hold a fourth round of indirect talks soon, Turkey's foreign minister said Wednesday. Ali Babacan told private NTV television that Turkey would mediate those talks in Istanbul in the "coming weeks" but refused to disclose the exact date, citing security concerns. "Both sides have the political will for a solution," Babacan said. "There is hope. We wouldn't have engaged in the negotiations if there weren't." Turkish mediators have been shuttling between the Israeli and Syria negotiators through three previous rounds of indirect talks since May. The talks have been conducted in secret in Istanbul and results have not been made public. Babacan said Turkey is trying to get both sides to meet in person. The Israeli and Syrian delegations are staying in separate hotels in the city, he said. "The sides do not want to meet face to face until they have reached a certain level," Babacan said. Syrian President Bashar Assad said last week the talks could move toward direct contact but suggested that would not happen until the United States has a new president. A new US president will be elected in November and take office in January 2009. Turkey enjoys close ties to both Israel and Syria. A predominantly Muslim country that is vying for European Union membership, it is been carving itself a role as mediator in the Middle East. Babacan said he hoped the peace overtures would lead to solutions to other tensions, including peace between Israel and Lebanon. Previous peace talks between Syria and Israel broke down in 2000.