Turkey: More Israeli-Syrian talks possible before elections

Last round of indirect talks held in July, and a 5th round has been repeatedly postponed since then.

abdullah gul 88.298ap (photo credit: AP [file])
abdullah gul 88.298ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel and Syria may hold a fifth round of indirect talks before the general elections on February 10, Turkish sources said Thursday. The last round of indirect talks were held in July, and a scheduled fifth round has been repeatedly postponed since then. It was not immediately clear when the talks would take place, and whether they would come before the scheduled visit by Turkish President Abdullah Gul in January. Although the Gul visit has not been officially announced, diplomatic officials said it would likely take place before the Israeli elections. It would be a reciprocal visit for one that President Shimon Peres made to Ankara in November 2007. Although Gul made three trips to Israel as foreign minister, this would be his first as president. The Syrian track is expected to be high on the agenda of those talks, as are the Palestinian negotiations and bilateral Turkish-Israeli ties. In a related development, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Thursday that Syria was refraining from engaging in direct peace negotiations with Israel until it received answers to six questions sent to Jerusalem regarding the future of the Golan Heights. According to the report, Turkey presented both sides with an offer to advance the negotiations, and during the diplomatic activity that followed, both countries exchanged six questions. Israel asked about security guarantees, and Syria asked about the Golan and future borders. The paper reported that Syria had submitted its responses to the Turks, but had asked that they not be shown to Jerusalem officials until the Israelis submitted their own answers. Israel has never acknowledged that it received any document from the Syrians, and an official in the Prime Minister's Office refused to comment on the Al-Hayat story. Another Israeli diplomatic official, however, said the Syrian government had said publicly it wasn't interested in beginning direct negotiations with Israel until a new US administration was in place. The Syrians are very keen on intensive US involvement, something the Bush administration was hesitant to offer, but something to which the Obama administration may be more amenable.