Israeli DM says direct talks with Lebanon a possibility, though not with Syria
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz stated on Monday evening that he did not rule out the possibility of direct talks with Lebanon at some point in the future, but added that the time was not ripe for similar negotiations with its Syrian neighbor.
Peretz made the statement in meeting with UN envoy Terje Larsen and his delegation, who convened to discuss the current situation in Lebanon and the deployment of a multinational force in southern Lebanon, according to Haaretz.
The minister added that Hizbullah was the main obstacle for peace between Lebanon and Israel, but that the recent conflict between the two countries represented a unique opportunity for progress in the region.
Regarding talks with Syria, Peretz said: "Currently, the requisite conditions for dialogue with Syria are absent, but I am optimistic for the future."
"We need to see what will happen there. We're not frightened from the loud voices emanating from Syria. We have no interest in heating up the Syrian front, but we will know how to defend ourselves if necessary," he went on.
Meanwhile, Israel's Vice Premier Shimon Peres voiced frustration with Syria's stance regarding Israel, saying: "First they present conditions that we have to accept, and only later they will decide if they want to talk with Israel. This is an unacceptable process. They should stop being so shy and agree to meet us in daylight, without any prerequisites."
Earlier in the day, Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter had publicly stated that that in exchange for peace with Syria, Israel it would be reasonable to return the Israeli occupied Golan Heights to Syria. The comment drew a slew of criticism from across the Israeli political spectrum.