Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the revival of peace talks with Syria is a key foreign policy objective, according to a statement issued on Sunday. "Israel considers the launching of negotiations with Syria and its departure from the circle of extremists to be a central objective," Barak told a closed meeting of European ambassadors on Friday, the statement said.
According to AFP, Barak warned, however, that Israel still considers Damascus a threat to its security because of its support for Hizbullah. Israel is "following what is happening in the north, especially the reinforcements of Hezbollah with support from Syria," Barak said.
But Barak declared that Israel is "strongest country in the region and that gives it the possibility to make certain arrangements with Syria."
These remarks come as Haaretz newspaper reported Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has dispatched some 20 messages to Syrian President Bashar Assad during the past year to better assess Damascus's intentions before the possible resumption of talks between the two countries.
According to a senior minister, quoted by the paper,Assad's responses "did not meet Israeli expectations" and Olmert believes that at this time it is not possible to initiate negotiations with Syria.