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Photo: Channel 1
Spokeswoman Buthaina Shaaban
Photo: Channel 1
Photo: AFP
Syrian President Bashar Assad
Photo: AFP
Syrian minister: Turkey mediating between Israel, Syria
Syrian spokeswoman to BBC: Though Olmert, Assad not meeting personally, Turkey acting as mediator for peace negotiations

Syrian Expatriate Affairs Minister Buthaina Shaaban said Monday that Turkey was the third party mediating in negotiations between Israel and Syria.

 

Speaking during an interview for the BBC network conducted in Arabic, Shaaban announced that though there has not yet been a meeting between the two countries' leaders, there have been steps taken by a "friendly third party mediator – Turkey."

 

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad recently admitted that there have been negotiations between the two sides, mediated by a third party.

 

Shaaban, considered an official spokesperson for the Syrian government, added that "Assad said he would update the Syrian people in the event of progress. Syria does not support confidential maneuvers, but rather public ones."

 

According to her, Syria is ready to negotiate peace on the condition of Israel's full withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

 

"Syria has always supported peace, but a just peace based on international decisions and restoration of all rights," Shaaban said.

 

"Syria has supported peace since the 70's, but Israel has not been for it. Israel talks about peace and scatters peaceful declarations, but when it comes time to pay the price for peace, Israel has never proved itself willing to pay."

 

In contrast with past reports from Damascus, Shaaban said the government would not hasten to retrieve Syrian land. "The Golan Heights are Syria's lands and will be returned eventually. Syria prefers the land be returned peacefully and through negotiations for peace.

 

"War is disgraceful; we are not the occupiers but there are those that occupy our land, attack us, and use collective punishment. That is Israel, which is imposing all of this on the region."

 

Shaaban added that her country is not in league with others, but rather stands alone in its international policy.

 

"No one can undermine Syria's strong presence in the region," she said. "Israel's image today is that of a child-murderer."

 

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