Assad confirms reports of Israeli willingness to cede Golan
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 24, 2008
Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday confirmed reports in the Arab
media to the effect that Israel had agreed to relinquish the Golan Heights
in exchange for peace with Syria. In an interview with the Qatari daily Al
Watan the Syrian president claimed that the prime minister of Turkey, Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, had informed him that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had agreed
to cede the Golan for peace.
The Syrian leader also claimed that Israel and Syria were exchanging
messages since the end of the Second Lebanon War, adding that the
negotiation track had heated up since Turkey became involved about a year
"The mediation between Damascus and Tel Aviv thoroughly increased since the
end of the war in Lebanon and Hizbullah's victory," Assad said. "However,
Turkey entering the picture in April of last year has precipitated the
disclosure of new positive details."
"Olmert told the Turkish prime minister that he was willing to retreat from
the Golan," Assad said and claimed that Olmert's willingness to cede the
plateau was reiterated in interviews he gave before Pessah. "We have heard a
statement by Olmert in which he said: 'We know what Syria wants and they
know what we want.'"
According to Assad, despite positive developments that were the result of
Turkish involvement, the negotiations should be held in the public eye.
"What we now need to do is to formulate common grounds with the Turkish
mediator," he said. "But there will be no direct negotiations with Israel
unless they are public. Negotiations being held via the Turks are not
considered direct talks."
On Wednesday, western diplomatic officials, who confirmed that messages from
Jerusalem to Damascus and vice versa have been going through Erdogan's
office for months, said Israel made clear that any peace agreement would
necessitate Syria ending its support for Hamas and throwing Hamas political
leader Khaled Mashaal out of Damascus; ceasing support for Hizbullah; and
distancing itself from Iran.
Erdogan is scheduled to hold a meeting with Assad in Damascus on Saturday.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report