President Bashar Assad said on Friday that Syria was keen to resume Middle East peace talks just as soon as it had someone it could deal with on the Israeli side. He also said the talks depended on reconciliation between the Palestinian factions.
"We can't talk about a date, there is no partner," Assad told a joint news conference with visiting Turkish President Abdullah Gul whose government brokered preliminary peace feelers between Syria and Israel last year.
"When the partner's ready, then we'll be able to fix a date to start peace negotiations," Assad said.
"Peace is a strategic choice. We are going to continue our dialogue with Turkey about peace. We'll be able to talk about it with other countries, like the United States, because supporting the peace process is an important thing, for us and for Turkey."
Last Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet that he was not prepared to cede the Golan Heights. "I have no intention of bringing Israeli forces down from the Golan," a senior Israeli official quoted Netanyahu as telling ministers.
The Turkish president said it was too soon to rule out the possibility of Netanyahu's government moderating its approach. "I am convinced that this new government will forget the policies it adopted while in opposition because all parties behave differently once they have achieved power and you have to accept your responsibilities," Gul said.
"We are ready. As soon as Syria said it was ready to resume the negotiations that it conducted with the previous Israeli government where they left off, Turkey was ready to play its part too.
"It is important that Israel decide that it is a negotiating partner – there are people who can help them in this – and after a certain period, the discussions will have to resume in multiple directions."
Assad said that "Palestinian reconciliation lies at the heart of any settlement in the region."
"Without a united Palestinian position, there will be no peace on the Palestinian track, no two-state solution and no return of occupied land," added the Syrian president who held talks with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas on Thursday.
The Turkish president echoed his comments. "The formation of two Palestinian states is unthinkable. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the Palestinians unite."