Assad. Wants to swim in Lake Kinneret
Syria rejects Israeli conditions for peace deal
Information Minister Muhsin Bilal responds to Foreign Minister Tizpi Livni's demand that Damascus distance itself from Hamas, Hizbullah, saying 'the issue of peace, the peace process does not require prior conditions.' He reiterates claims that his country received commitment from Israel for return of Golan Heights
Syria said on Thursday it had received guarantees from Israel via Turkey for a full withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights and rejected conditions put by the Jewish state for concluding a peace deal.
Israel and Syria on Wednesday announced that they had begun indirect talks in Turkey, the first of their kind in eight years. But Israeli officials on Thursday said Damascus must distance itself from Iran and stop supporting Palestinian and Lebanese militants.
"We received commitments and messages from the Israeli government and the Israeli prime minister that guarantee, via the Turks, that he knows what the Syrians want," Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal told al-Jazeera television.
"He knows that the whole of the Golan Heights will be returned to Syria and that Israel will withdraw to the lines of June 4, 1967."
Syria has demanded the return of the Golan Heights, a plateau overlooking Damascus on one side and the Sea of Galilee on the other, since the Jewish state captured it in the 1967 Middle East war.
The United States, in its initial public reaction Israeli-Syrian contacts, said it did not object to talks but repeated its criticism of Syria's "support for terrorism".
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, echoing US comments, said Syria should distance itself from groups such as Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, some of whose leaders it hosts, as well as Lebanon's Hizbullah terror group.
"When they make these demands, they are setting conditions and the issue of peace, the peace process does not require prior conditions," Bilal said.
"These conditions have already been rejected as is the phrase 'painful concessions' since what the Syrians are demanding is their right."
Bilal said there was no painful concession involved in Israel returning land that belongs to Syria anyway.