Solana: Syria ready to resume talks

Peres: Assad must drop preconditions; tells EU official time ripe for Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

assad explains it all 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
assad explains it all 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Monday told President Shimon Peres that he got the impression during his meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad that that latter was interested in resuming negotiations with Israel. Peres replied, "If Assad is interested in peace with Israel, he must enter into direct negotiations without preconditions." The president stressed the importance of remembering that Israel's presence in the Golan Heights was the result of a Syrian attack, adding that "Israel has every right to ensure that we will not be attacked again." Peres added, "Hizbullah is Syria's reserve army, which acts on its behalf as a terrorist organization. Assad must decide whether he wants peace or continued conflict. I believe that we must try and make peace with Syria, but there is no need for intermediaries," he concluded. Solana and Peres also discussed the advancement of the Israel-Palestinian peace process and of the Arab peace initiative, as well as the strengthening of relations between Israel and the European Union. Peres told the EU official that both sides had expressed their support for a solution of "two states for two peoples," and were willing to resume negotiations. The president stressed that it was important to enter talks as soon as possible so as not to miss the opportunity for peace. There is an opportunity to achieve common goals through pragmatic steps that will also contribute to the political climate in the Middle East. The people of Israel are ready for peace. If the peace process fails, we will not be able to go back to square one. Should the regional peace process break down, nuclear arms will change the strategic map of the Middle East, the president said. Solana, who is on a tour of the Middle East, arrived in Israel after meeting the Syrian president and is expected to meet with leaders in Egypt and Lebanon in the coming days. Solana reportedly told Peres that the UN Security Council should study the International Atomic Energy Agency's report on Teheran's nuclear program, and stated that the Islamic republic had not yet responded to Western states' proposal submitted prior to the elections in Iran.