Golan residents call for talks with Syria
Peace with Syria movement conference urges Israeli government to hold negotiations with Damascus with American presence or Quartet representation. Local Arabs: Golan must be returned to Syria
The Peace with Syria movement held a conference Monday evening at Kibbutz Gadot with the participation of hundreds of Golan Heights residents.
During the rally, former Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Liel, who heads the movement, called on Israel’s government to launch negotiations with Syrian President Bashar Assad and urged US President George W. Bush to allow such a move.
Labor Knesset Member Ami Ayalon echoed Liel’s call, but said Israel should first focus on advancing talks with the Palestinian Authority “now that President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have abandoned the path of violence”.
Liel said that in Israel's current political situation, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could not negotiate with the Palestinians and Syria simultaneously and should therefore focus on Damascus.
Arab residents of the region who attended the conference said there was no dispute as to the necessity of returning the Golan to Syria as it was “conquered by Israel”.
Over the past few days, hundreds of Golan Heights residents have signed the Peace with Syria movement’s petition, which reads, “For the past year we have heard voices that we have never heard before from Damascus.
“President Assad has repeatedly declared his willingness to renew the negotiations for peace with Israel,” it says. “The Israeli government has rejected these calls, but in recent months has checked their authenticity with the help of a third party.
“We call on President Bush and Tony Blair to facilitate the negotiations with American presence or representation from the Quartet. We believe such talks could remove the threat of the missiles that are currently flowing from Iran into Syria by the thousands and may soon land on our heads.”