Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday said his country is not interested in violent conflict with Syria, adding that he is confident that recent tensions with Damascus will subside, Israeli media reported. The Israeli leader's comments, made before a closed meeting at the Israeli parliament, were his latest effort to ease concerns about a possible conflict with Syria in the wake of a reported Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sept 6. Israel has never publicly acknowledged a raid.
Olmert told parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel has been monitoring Syrian troop movements in recent weeks, Army Radio reported. "We're not interested in friction, and I think the Syrians aren't either," the report quoted him as saying, citing unidentified meeting participants. "I think the tensions in the area will gradually subside."
Foreign news oulets have cited officials and experts as saying the attack targeted some sort of nonconventional weapon, perhaps a joint Syrian-North Korean nuclear project. Syria has denied both, and North Korea has denied a nuclear link with Damascus.
Meanwhile, Israel does not object to Syria taking part in a U.S.-sponsored conference on Palestinian statehood, Israeli officials said on Monday. "The United States is the one that will issue the invitations and that will define the criteria for the invitations, and we have no problem with whomever they decide to invite," Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Another senior Israeli official said: "We have no objections to Syria participating as long as the talks stay only on the Palestinian track."
The United States signaled on Sunday it would invite Syria and other Arab countries to the Middle East conference, expected to be held later this year, but it suggested Damascus must renounce violence and genuinely seek an end to the conflict. It is unclear if Syria would agree to attend the conference if Washington imposed conditions on participants.