Photo: AP
Welcomes Israel-Syria talks. Kouchner
Photo: AP
PM Ehud Olmert
Photo: AP
Bashar Assad
Photo: AFP

French FM says Syria to join Israel at Mediterranean summit

'Assad will be sitting at the same table as Olmert' next month's Paris conference, Bernard Kouchner tells parliament, ' we welcome the fact that the Syrians are talking to the Israelis'

Syrian President Bashar Assad will be joining Israel's leader at a summit to launch a new Mediterranean Union in Paris next month, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday.


"The Syrian president will be there, sitting next to, at the same table, as the Israeli (prime minister)," Kouchner told parliament.


Israel and Syria on Monday wrapped up a second round of indirect talks in Turkey and agreed to hold more meetings in July.


But Kouchner did not confirm reports that a meeting could be held in Paris between Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the sidelines of the July 13 summit.


"We welcome the fact that the Syrians are talking to the Israelis. On that day, it will be possible for them to do that if they want to," he said.


The last round of Israeli-Syrian negotiations broke down in 2000 over the fate of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed in 1981, a move not internationally recognized.


President Nicolas Sarkozy has invited Assad to attend the July 13 summit to launch the new grouping of countries of the Mediterranean rim and to attend the Bastille Day military parade.


The president has moved to restore high-level ties with Syria that were strained over charges of Syrian involvement in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, a friend of former president Jacques Chirac.


'Determined to continue process'

After the latest round of Syrian-Israeli indirect talks in Turkey, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said both sides had pronounced themselves "extremely satisfied" with the level of progress.


The two days of discussions involved Turkish mediators shuttling between a hotel containing the Syrian negotiating team and another housing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's top advisors, Shalom Turjeman and Yoram Turbowitz.


"Turkey is acting as facilitator and Turkey is trusted by both of these countries," said Babacan.


"As long as we see the opportunity for peace we are determined to continue the process. Of course the will of both parties is very important."


Israeli President Shimon Peres on Sunday publicly called on Syria to enter direct talks, citing the example of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who forged a peace deal with the Jewish state.


Assad said earlier this month that direct peace talks with Israel were unlikely before 2009 and depended on the fate of Olmert, who has been dogged by calls for his resignation over a graft scandal.


פרסום ראשון: 06.17.08, 19:26
 new comment
This will delete your current comment