'Progress' denied in Syria negotiations

Senior Syrian official says "inaccurate reports" of "significant progress" are damaging to peace efforts.

Assad Ahmadinejad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Assad Ahmadinejad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A senior Syrian official involved in indirect talks with Israel said on Saturday that reports of "significant progress" between the two sides was "inaccurate," and potentially "damaging" to the negotiation effort. On Friday, a Syrian official told the London-based newspaper, Asharq al-Awsatthat indirect talks between Damascus and Jerusalem have already produced agreements concerning the main principles of security arrangements, water, borders and normalization. He said that Israel agreed that the security arrangements between the two sides would be implemented temporarily until trust is built. Yet Dr. Samir Tiki, one of senior members in the Syrian negotiating team downplayed the optimism of his colleague on Saturday. In a report published by the Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Anba, the Syrian official said that while the main principals were discussed, there was still much ground to cover, and it was too early to describe the progress made as a breakthrough. Tiki added that publishing inaccurate reports during such a sensitive phase in the negotiations is especially damaging. On Friday, another Syrian official close to the Turkish-mediated negotiations was quoted as saying that Damascus had not yet been asked to break its alliance with Iran. The source told Asharq al-Awsat that Teheran had expressed understanding with the negotiations and that Iran itself was "holding talks with other sources." The official also reported "significant progress" in the Syria-Israel diplomatic negotiations. He said that the two sides were on the verge of the transition to direct talks, but that such discussions were dependent on regional and political conditions. He said that at the previous stage of the talks, the two sides did not discuss intricate details, but at the next stage, they were expected to deal with "fundamental matters." The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report. The source stressed that regional issues, including Syria's ties with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, were postponed for future discussions. Earlier this week, said the source, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that any request to cut ties with Iran was "unreasonable." The official also quoted Assad as saying that if Israel demands this, Syria will be justified in expressing its reservations regarding Israel's ties with other countries, particularly the US. He went on to say that both sides had security demands. "The Syrians insist that security arrangements be shared between the two sides and there is Israeli agreement on this matter," he added.