US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied that America has nixed Israeli talks with Syria, but still appeared to throw cold water on the idea when questioned about it Tuesday. "My understanding is that it's the view of the Israelis and certainly our view that the Syrians are engaged in behavior right now that is destabilizing to the region," she said. "But it's not a view that there shouldn't be such a track. When it's ready, it should be." Rice's comments implied that current conditions are not ripe even as discussion in Israel over whether to respond to Syrian overtures has intensified.
Editorial: Call Assad's bluff
She was speaking en route to Germany with reporters, one of whom had asked about Israeli debate over moving away from the Palestinian track to focus on Syria.
"There's no substitute for trying to get to the place where the Palestinians finally have their state, and the Israelis finally have a neighbor who can live in peace and security with them," Rice said, describing that situation as "at the core of a lot of problems in the region."
She described the Israeli-Palestinian track as something that "unlocks the key" to Israeli engagement with the broader Arab world.
Rice traveled to Berlin to meet with foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations ahead of a summit of G8 leaders next week. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Iran were both on the agenda.
In her comments Tuesday she affirmed the US stance that Iran must suspend its efforts to enrich uranium, despite last week's remarks by International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei that the world should accept that Iran has mastered enrichment capabilities. The US has previously expressed some reservations about his findings.
"I am not one who agrees that somehow because the Iranians are continuing to make progress or are purported to continue to make progress on certain kinds of technologies, that it's time to abandon the requirement that they suspend," Rice said. "I think that would be a very big mistake."
She stressed that the US could seek action outside of the UN Security Council and the limited sanctions it has imposed on Iran for its defiance of international demands that it halt its enrichment efforts.
Rice also attacked the Islamic Republic for charging three Iranian-Americans as spies, labeling the move "a perversion of the rule of law." Her harsh words and the charges themselves come within two days of a historic meeting between Iranian and American officials, suggesting the limits of goodwill on both sides.