Olmert and Bush in Jerusalem
Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO
The US administration has asked Turkey to boost its efforts to advance the talks between Israel and Syria, in light of the recent clashes between Hizbullah members and government supporters in Lebanon, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported Saturday, quoting an Israeli official.
According to the report, the request was made in light of estimates that peace between Jerusalem and Damascus would help distance Syria from Hizbullah, after the recent events "proved the Shiite organization's power and capabilities in the Lebanese arena."
The source added that the United States had hinted more than once that Israel should advance the talks with Syria, despite Washington's previous stance which opposed the negotiations.
According to the source, who attended meetings held by US President George W. Bush during his recent visit to Israel, Washington is now willing to take part in the talks, should Turkey succeed in bringing about a breakthrough with its mediation efforts.
The official added that it was no coincidence that both Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not focus on the danger from Damascus during their speeches at the Knesset, despite intelligence reports testifying to the fact that Syria is boosting its military forces.
About a week ago, al-Hayat reported that Turkey is interested in a joint declaration which will be signed by senior Israeli and Syrian officials during an upcoming meeting which may be held in Istanbul. However, a Syrian source told the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram that the negotiations could only move forward when the Bush administration is gone.
About four weeks ago, Syrian President Bashar Assad told a Qatari newspaper that Turkey's mediation had yielded new and positive details, as "Olmert had informed the Turkish prime minister of his willingness to cede the Golan Heights."