'Syrian-Israeli meeting fell through'

'Al-Hayat': Turkish initiative was called off after Syria leaked that Israel had agreed to cede Golan.

Assad nice 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Assad nice 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A Turkish initiative to hold a meeting between Israeli and Syrian officials fell through after Damascus leaked to the press that Israel had agreed to relinquish all of the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported Thursday. According to another report, the chances that such a meeting will be held in the near future are slim due to the US administration's stance on Damascus. The meeting, which was supposed to produce a joint Israeli-Syrian-Turkish declaration, was put off after Syria told the Israeli media that Israel agreed to cede the Golan Heights in a future peace agreement with Syria, the paper reported. According to the report, the meeting was to take place, "somewhere in Istanbul." Al-Hayat quoted unnamed officials as saying that despite Turkish concern following the Syrian leak, Turkey understood Damascus's wish to know what Olmert's stance was before entering "a new peace venture with Israel." According to the officials, Syria was encouraged when Olmert did not deny the report. "The secrecy that shrouded the talks in the past year is the main reason for their success," they said. Meanwhile, the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram quoted a Syrian source as saying that Syria had recently conveyed a message about the negotiations to Israel via Turkish emissaries. The message, they said, touched on the manner in which information would be exchanged between the two sides in the near future. According to the source, the chance of a meeting between Israeli and Syrian representatives taking place soon was slim due to the current US administration's stance regarding Damascus. Talks between the two sides would only begin next year, after the new US president enters office, the source said. The Turks, he said, were more focused on laying the groundwork for peace talks than on kick-starting an actual negotiations process. "Damascus considers the establishment of additional settlements on the occupied Golan Heights an act of extortion in any future negotiations," he said.