Peace talks resumed; Syria gets commitment for full withdrawal from Golan Heights
Israel and Syria confirmed on Wednesday they had resumed peace talks through Turkish mediators, ending an eight-year freeze, with Damascus claiming it had a prior Israeli promise to return the whole of the occupied Golan Heights. "Israel and Syria began indirect peace talks under Turkish auspices," the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said: "Indirect talks began in Turkey with Turkish mediation in a bid to pave the ground for the resumption of direct negotiations aimed at achieving just and comprehensive peace in the region."
According to AFP, the Turkish foreign ministry said the three sides had decided to go public on the talks simultaneously. Syria and Israel "have declared that they will continue these negotiations with good will and open minds," it said.
Muallem himself told AFP that Damascus "received commitments for a withdrawal from the Golan to the June 4, 1967 line."
But a senior Israeli official insisted there had been no change to the government's policy that while accepting the principle of a withdrawal from the Golan as part of a peace deal, the depth of any pullout would depend on agreement on other issues. "We know what the Syrians expect from this process and the Syrians know what we expect from this process," Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev said.
Two top advisors of the israeli prime minister -- Shalom Turgeman and Yoram Turbowitz -- were in Ankara on Wednesday for talks with Turkish diplomats, senior Israeli officials said.