The United States is pressuring Turkey and Israel
to halt the indirect negotiations with Syria
being held in Istanbul, diplomatic sources told the al-Bayan newspaper published Friday in the United Arab Emirates.
According to the report, the reason for the American pressure was Damascus' agreement in principle to deploy a Russian missile system on its territory – a claim which was denied Friday by a senior Syrian source.
The US responded angrily to Syrian President Bashar Assad's
support of Russia in its war against Georgia.
A source in the State Department said that Damascus should focus on playing a more positive part in the Middle East rather than interfere in conflicts which have nothing to do with Syria.
The Bush administration was not surprised by Assad's move, noting that the US had opposed the Syria-Israel talks as long as the Syrians refrain from preventing terrorists from moving into Iraq, disrupt the rehabilitation of Lebanon
and help Hamas
Officials in Jerusalem said
Thursday that Israel was determined to continue the indirect peace negotiations with Damascus despite Assad's visit to Russia, during which he explored the possibility of purchasing advanced weaponry and offered Moscow to station missiles on Syrian soil to counter Washington's plan to plant missiles in Poland.
"Israel will continue with the talks, and the fifth round of negotiations is scheduled to begin soon," one official said. "Assad looked to purchase arms from Russia even before his current trip to Moscow; we strongly oppose such a move, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
made this abundantly clear during his phone conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Wednesday."