'Turkey could host Israel-Syria talks'

Reuters quotes Turkish FM as saying, "If the two countries agree, we can do it."

Erdogan Assad  (photo credit: AP)
Erdogan Assad
(photo credit: AP)

Turkey isready to try again to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Syria if both countries agree toresume the stalled initiative, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu wasquoted by Reuters as saying Friday.

Davutoglu said the IDF's 2008 operation in scuttled a potential peace deal after mediated in indirect talks between Israel and Syria.

"Is it possible to restart itagain? Yes, why not?" Davutoglu said in response to a question about thetalks.

"If the two countries agree torestart it, we can do it. As ,we are ready," Davutoglu said at the International Institute of StrategicStudies think tank in .

"The Syrian side alreadydeclared they want to continue from where we left [off]. The Israeli side, theyhave different views. Some coalition members are against, some are in favor. Wewill see," he said.

"If we see a strong political will, both in and , we will continue to support [peaceefforts]. We will support every attempt, step in the direction of peace."

Israel and Syria held four indirect rounds of peace talks with Turkish mediation in 2008, butthey were suspended following the resignation of then-prime minister EhudOlmert in September of that year.

Syria said at the time of OperationCast Lead that it ruled out a resumption of the indirect talks any time soon.

But more recently, Syrian PresidentBashar Assad has expressed interest in renewing negotiations with Israel.

Syria wants an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the whole of the Golan Heights,the Syrian plateau that conquered in the 1967 Six Day War.

Israel has said it was willing toresume the talks without preconditions.

George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy,discussed reviving peace talks between and last week withAssad, who said had to "declare frankly" it wants peace.

Muslim but secular, Turkey has a history of military cooperationwith and has acted as an intermediary for the Jewish state with the Arab world.

But relations have soured recentlyas repeatedly criticized Operation Cast Lead.

Turkey has meanwhile improved its ties with Syria,making Israeli officials wary of resuming a mediation role.

Davutoglu repeated that theIsrael-Syria peace talks had been making progress when launched the offensive.

Turkey was "concerned with the policies of because of Israel,"he said, adding: "Criticizing one policy of an Israeli government does notmean the end of Turkish-Israel relations."