Syria urges Israel to talk peace

Conference kicks off in Madrid, aimed at reviving optimism for Mideast peace process.

madrid conf 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
madrid conf 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
A Syrian representative at the Madrid+15 conference Thursday called for Israel to return the Golan Heights and for the peace process to be restarted. Raid Daoudi, director of the Judicial Department of the Presidency and legal adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the conference - marking 15 years since the international conference hosted in this city - was an "occasion to reaffirm basics and put the peace process back on track." He called for a return to the June 4, 1967 border, adding that the "absence of peace in the past five years has led to an increase in extremism and violence." He referred to the "popular frustration and the deep suspicion of Israel" felt within his country and said Syria was "subjected to various pressures aimed at undermining its regional role." "The two-state solution is still on the table, but the peacemakers need to be advised that this is not for too long and time is running out," former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said. Representatives of Arab and European states and the Palestinians also called for the resumption of peace negotiations. Abdul Rahman bin Hamad Al-Attiya, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said "the core issue for us is to endeavor - despite all impediments - to find a peaceful, comprehensive and just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Towards this end, we have modified our key concepts and principles towards Israel, in order to give peace a greater chance." "No wall can bring security to Israel," he added. "We need to demolish all walls of racism and hatred and replace them with new principles and norms that will lay foundation for a peaceful coexistence that will lead to a hopeful future for the children of the region." Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian Authority spokeswoman who was a negotiator at the original Madrid conference in 1991, also called for a resumption of negotiations. "Violence has proven to be a failed policy. Oppression and repression have failed, and more of the same isn't going to produce any results, it will produce even greater failure," she said. "The Palestinian question must not be allowed to continue to fester in the region." Ashrawi added that just as violent conflict would not solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, "then there is no way in which internally the solution can be a violent one." The issue of the Palestinians was one of "self-determination," she said. "The solution must be multilateral, with positive rather than negative intervention." Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store qualified as "brave" the meeting between PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last month and called on the Quartet to "demonstrate leadership." Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said peace between Israel and the Palestinians "would facilitate" peace in the region. "The longer we delay, the greater the risk of a systematic breakdown of the entire region," he said. "Israel must understand that no other nation in the world except for Palestine itself has a more fundamental interest in the viability and stability and democracy of the state of Palestine than does Israel. Peace must come primarily from the region," Bildt said. AP contributed to this report.