'People no longer embrace peace process.' Moallem
Photo: AFP

Syria open to new talks with Israel after election

'If Israel proves after its elections that whoever comes to power has the will for a just and comprehensive peace, we may resume talks,' FM Moallem says, adding 'primary concern is lessening the suffering of our people in Gaza'

Syria may resume peace talks with Israel if the Jewish state elects a leader next week willing to reach a comprehensive peace deal, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said on Monday.


The ferocity of Israel's three-week invasion of Gaza, however, turned popular sentiment in the Middle East against compromise with Israel and the priority now was to help the Palestinians deal with the invasion's aftermath, Moallem said.


Syria formally broke off indirect talks with Israel, which were being mediated by Turkey, during the Israeli attack on Gaza. The talks had already been put on hold following the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in September.


"If Israel proves after its elections that whoever comes to power has the will for a just and comprehensive peace through executing United Nations Security Council resolutions, then that would warrant another assessment," Moallem said after meeting Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin.


"The people of our region no longer embrace the peace process. Their primary concern is lessening the suffering of our people in Gaza, lifting the siege and rebuilding Gaza through solidifying the ceasefire."


Israel is due to hold parliamentary elections on Feb. 10.


'Cooperate with Mitchell'

Asked whether Syria was optimistic about peace with new US President Barack Obama in power, Moallem said it would take a year to find out.


"People in this region become sometimes optimistic when a new American president comes along only to be disappointed later. But this administration will definitely not be worse than the one of Bush regarding our region," he said.


Damascus sees Obama as less ideological than his predecessor George W. Bush and as more likely to engage Syria, possibly bringing about a thaw in relations. However, Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell did not visit Syria on his first trip to the Middle East.


Martin urged Middle East players to cooperate with Mitchell, citing his role as a peacemaker in Northern Ireland that led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.


Talks between Israel and Syria have focused on the Golan Heights. Israel captured the plateau in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it more than a decade later - a move rejected by the UN Security Council.


The two countries held of direct talks under US supervision for almost 10 years until they collapsed in 2000 over the scope of a proposed Israeli withdrawal from the Golan.


They resumed indirect talks last year after Turkish mediation and held four rounds. Syria demanded an Israeli commitment to withdraw from all of what Damascus regards as the Golan and Israel demanded that Syria scale back its ties to Iran, Hamas and the Lebanese Hizbullah group.


In the Israeli election campaign, the right-wing Likud party of Benjamin Netanyahu leads opinion polls, with the ruling Kadima party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni trailing. 


פרסום ראשון: 02.02.09, 20:25
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