Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
relayed a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad
during his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday that Israel
was willing to withdraw from the Golan Heights, the al-Arabiya network reported Thursday.
According to the report, Netanyahu said in the message, "We have accepted the principle of withdrawing from the Golan; let's discuss the details."
The Prime Minister's Office said in response, "The Al-Arabiya report has nothing to do with reality. Nothing of this kind ever happened."
Al-Arabiya quoted "knowledgeable sources" as saying that France would present Syria with "an offer to resume the peace process between Israel and Syria,
which would serve as an alternative to (former Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin's
According to the report, France and Israel agreed not to reveal the content of the message, which was coordinated with Washington, until it is relayed to Assad during his expected meeting with Sarkozy in Paris on Friday.
The meeting between the Israeli and French leaders was held at Sarkozy's private suite in the Élysée Palace and not in the official hospitality lounge, in an apparent friendly gesture on the part of Sarkozy. The meeting, which was scheduled to last 45 minutes, ended one hour later.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
said Wednesday evening that the time was right to enter negotiations with Syria.
"One must always remember our vital security interests but one mustn't dismiss the signals of a willingness to achieve peace emanating from Damascus lately," the minister said in Tel Aviv. Similar remarks were made by President Shimon Peres
Assad said on Wednesday that Syria was not setting conditions on making peace with Israel, but that it did have rights that must be restored, the official SANA news agency reported.
"Resistance (to Israeli "occupation") forms the core of our policy, both in the past and in the future. We do not put forward conditions on making peace, but we do have rights that we will not renounce," he told a meeting of Arab political parties in Damascus.