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Syrian President Bashar Assad
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Olmert. Wants talks
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Syria 'ready' for Israel peace talks
We would like to resume peace negotiations with Israel, Syrian official says day after Olmert said he did not want to go to war with Damascus. 'Our position is the same; we're closely following (Israeli) statements,' official adds

Damascus would like to resume peace negotiations with Israel, a Syrian official said on Thursday, a day after Israel said it did not want to go to war with its arch-foe.

 

"Our position is the same. We are ready to resume peace negotiations, we would like to take action for peace. We're closely following (the Israeli) statements," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

 

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted by his office as saying on Wednesday that his country "does not want a war with Syria."

 

Speaking after a powerful security cabinet meeting that focused on Damascus, Olmert said the message had been passed to Syria through various diplomatic channels.

 

But the Syrian official said he doubted Israel's desire for peace, adding: "We don't have much hope of things changing."

 

On Wednesday, the United States and Israel said after high-level talks in Washington that the time might not be ripe for Israel to resume peace talks with Syria, which broke off seven years ago.

 

Olmert has for the moment rejected overtures by Syrian President Bashar Assad to restart peace talks, saying Damascus had to first stop supporting terror groups like Hizbullah and Palestinian movement Hamas.

 

Olmert is expected to discuss the Syrian issue with US President George W. Bush when the two leaders meet in Washington on June 19.

 

US-brokered peace talks between Israel and Syria collapsed in 2000 over the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured 40 years ago during the Six Day war and annexed in 1981.

 

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