Updated on joint statement. Livni
Photo: AFP

Livni: Syria must sever ties with Hizbullah, Iran

'Damascus must understand that it must give up its support for terror if peace is to prevail,' Israeli FM says during meeting with French counterpart. Ministers criticize timing of renewed talks

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni commented Thursday on the renewed negotiations between Israel and Syria and said any peace process hinges on Damascus' renouncement of its support of terror.


"Israel's primary goal has always been peace with its neighbors. The Syrians have to understand that it entails giving up their support of terror (elements), namely Hamas, Iran and Hizbullah," Livni said at the onset of her Jerusalem meeting with French counterpart Bernard Kouchner.


The Israeli FM did not comment on the fact that she was kept in the dark on the renewed peace talks by her fellow "Kitchen Cabinet" members – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who led the initiative. Olmert updated Livni on the joint statement drafted by Jerusalem, Ankara and Damascus just an hour before it was issued.


"During Sunday's discussions ahead of Chief of Staff Dr. Yoram Turbowicz and State Counselor Shalom Turjeman's trip to Turkey (site of peace talks with Syria), Livni was in Sharm el-Sheikh for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and others," an Olmert aide said in jest, "also, she is busy with the negotiations on the Palestinian track.


"But seriously, she was briefed on the messages that were relayed and on the joint statement," the aide said." The prime minister respects and appreciates her."


'These are not peace talks'

However, a senior Kadima member said Olmert "could have shown Livni more respect if he wanted to."


Meanwhile, several cabinet members have criticized the timing of the renewed talks, alluding to the recent bribery investigation launched against Olmert.


"This (peace talks) is a positive development, but it remains to be seen whether it will end in a peace agreement," an associate of a senior minister said.


Another member of cabinet has expressed concern that the negotiations with Syria may "pull the rug out from under the Palestinians". Referring to the peace talks that were conducted with Syria during Barak's tenure as prime minister at the end of the '90s, an aide to the minister said "we've been there before, and we saw how it ended".


At least seven ministers, including Ze'ev Boim (Kadima) and Shas' Eli Yishai are opposed to the renewed talks.


Other officials in Jerusalem warned of over-enthusiastic responses to the talks. "It's important, but one shouldn't exaggerate the significance of the achievement. These are only indirect negotiations, which may result in Syria leaving the 'axis of evil'. These are not peace talks," one of them said.


פרסום ראשון: 05.22.08, 11:03
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