Photo: AP
Sarkozy and Assad. To meet Thursday
Photo: AP

Report: Israeli, Syrian representatives to meet next week

French source tells al-Hayat newspaper countries' delegates to meet again in Turkey on Sunday for fifth round of unofficial talks. Source adds President Sarkozy interested in acting as mediator in direct negotiations

The fifth round of Turkish-mediated talks between Israel and Syria is expected to begin Sunday, following a visit by French President Nicolas Sarokozy to Damascus, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported Wednesday, quoting a French source.


According to the source, the upcoming round of talks will be "of decisive importance," as it will deal with the demarcation of the border and will determine whether a future peace agreement would be based on the international borderline from 1923 or on the June 4, 1967 lines.


The source told al-Hayat that Sarkozy is very interested in playing a role in future direct negotiations between Israel and Syria.


The London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported that Paris received the green light from Washington and Jerusalem to mediate between Israel and Syria when the talks become direct.


According to the report, Israel and the United States agreed to have France sponsor the talks alongside the US, and guarantee that the security-related side of the agreement is implemented.


Sarkozy is expected to take part in a four-way summit Thursday with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.


Historic French visit

Ahead of Sarkozy's visit, which will end a three-and-a-half-year boycott of Syria – since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri – the French president has relayed messages to Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, briefing them on the details of his visit to Damascus.


The French source said that in his message, Sarkozy promised "to hold a dialogue with Syria with his eyes open to its outcomes. If the dialogue bears no results, it will be halted."


According to the source, the dialogue will only deal with diplomatic issues and will not include "economic aspects," despite the fact that Sarkozy's delegation will include the heads of major French companies.


Assad said Tuesday that indirect negotiations with Israel have brought "the possibility of peace," though the two countries still have quite a way to go toward that goal.


Syria's foreign minister said last week that the talks had not made enough headway for the two sides to hold direct negotiations. In an interview with France-3 television, Assad said officials were working to make them happen. 


"Today there is a possibility of peace," Assad said. "But nonetheless, we cannot say that we are close to achieving peace. We are preparing for direct negotiations. When we reach that step, we will be able to say that we are approaching peace.


"Today, we can only say that we have opened the door to peace," he said, in remarks in Arabic that were dubbed over in French.


פרסום ראשון: 09.03.08, 11:57
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