Israeli president invitation to Assad declined as sources say Syria agrees to Turkish mediation in talks
Syria has rejected Israeli President Moshe Katsav's invitation to President Bashar al-Assad to visit Jerusalem.
Syrian Immigrant Affairs minister Buthaina Sha'aban told the BBC that there was no doubt that President Assad would reject the invitation.
The minister added that there was no substance to Katsav's invitation, and that it was a "meaningless statement". She restated her country's demand to renew talks with Israel from the point where they were broken off.
Earlier Monday, Israel's President Moshe Katsav invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to visit Jerusalem, with "no preconditions", a day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel would be willing to begin peace talks with Syria, but only if Damascus first "stops its support of terrorist organizations".
Katzav on Monday told Israel Radio, "I'm the president of Israel and I have the authority to invite foreign presidents to come to Israel."
"I invite the president of Syria to come to Jerusalem to meet with the country's leaders and conduct serious negotiations, if that is his wish." However, Katzav also stressed Israel would "have to examine the seriousness, aims and motives of the Syrians".
"There is no doubt that President Assad is in severe trouble, and his intentions aren't pure," Katsav said, "but we must seriously examine his proposal to renew negotiations with Israel in a direct meeting and not through the media."
Last month, President Assad, in an interview to the New York Times said he was prepared to resume negotiations with Israel where they broke off in 2000 - with Israel offering to return nearly all of the Golan Heights, which were captured from Syria during the 1967 War.
In the meantime, senior Arab sources have revealed that Syria agreed to Turkey's proposal to mediate between Syria and Israel in Mid-East peace talks, the London-based Al Hayat reported Monday. Assad paid an official visit to Turkey last week.
The sources said Turkey had proposed to exert efforts in Israel and the US in order to revive peace talks and Assad had accepted this.
However, the sources added Assad refused Jordanian and Egyptian mediation in line with Syria's policy that rules out mediation with Israel by an Arab state.
Turkish officials told Al-Hayat that Ankara is ready to host official or semi-official talks between Syria and Israel. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)