The Israeli Prime Minister's office on Wednesday confirmed that Israel and Syria started peace talks brokered by Turkey. "The two sides have begun indirect talks under Turkish auspices," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a statement.
"The sides have declared their intention to conduct the talks without prejudice and with openness," the statement added. "They have decided to conduct the dialogue in a serious and continuous manner with the aim of reaching a comprehensive peace."
Israel and Syria last held peace talks, in the United States, in 2000 but they collapsed after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on the fate of the Golan Heights. A government official said that preparations for the talks have been underway since last year. "This has been worked on for quite some time... This started already last year, during a visit by the prime minister to Turkey, and it's coming to fruition now."
The U.S. government had asked Turkey to intensify efforts to advance negotiations between Israel and Syria, according to a report published by the London Arabic daily Al-Hayat on Saturday.