Israel-Syria talks to resume this week

Olmert's spokesman tells Post: "Moving to direct talks will be a sign of real progress."

Assad 88 (photo credit: )
Assad 88
(photo credit: )
Indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria are due to resume this week under Turkish auspices, probably in Istanbul, Israeli officials have said. The officials would not give an exact date for the next round of talks, but confirmed the negotiations would resume "shortly." Representing Israel, as in the previous round of talks, will be Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's political adviser Shalom Turgeman and PMO bureau chief Yoram Turbowicz. For the time being, the talks will continue in the same indirect format as the last ones, with both sides passing proposals and counter-proposals to Turkish mediators. Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev told The Jerusalem Post that a sign of things moving forward would be when the format changed. "Moving to direct talks will be a sign of real progress," he said. On May 21 Israel and Syria issued public statements confirming that indirect peace talks were taking place under Turkish mediation "in good faith and openly, in an effort to reach a comprehensive peace." Since then, Israeli officials have been tightlipped over details of the discussions, but Jerusalem has denied a claim by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem that Israel had agreed to withdraw from the Golan Heights up to the 1967 armistice line. According to reports in the Arab media, while the previous discussions were of a general nature, the next round of talks will focus on the details of four separate issues of a possible peace accord: borders, security aspects, water and normalization. Addressing the AIPAC convention in Washington last week, Olmert said that Syria was currently a threat to regional stability, but if "[Syria] ultimately makes the choice to have peace relations with Israel, for which it will have to disengage from its allies in the Axis of Evil, this will constitute a drastic, strategic shift in the entire Middle East." The prime minister said peace between Israel and Syria was a clear Israeli interest, but was also a Syrian one. He promised that any future agreement, if and when reached, would be backed by all the necessary security guarantees to ensure Israel's vital interests were maintained.