Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has forwarded a message to the Syrian President, Basahr al Assad through the Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, a Saudi daily reported on Sunday.
According to Al Watan newspaper, Sharon offered to hold a meeting between Syrian and Israeli officials in order to revive the peace process. The time and the location will be decided by Syria, Sharon's message said, according to the report. Sharon added that a Syrian move to to restrain the Lebanon-based Hizbullah group will help Israel show more "flexibility" during negotiations over the issue of occupied Golan Heights. On its part, Sharon's office denied the Saudi report.
Meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet during its weekly meeting Sunday discussed Syria's offer to renew peace negotiations with Israel, Israel Radio reported.
Prime Minister Sharon brought the subject up at the meeting and said that although Israel wants peace with Arab states, the background of the Syrian proposal must be clarified, to make sure that it is not merely an attempt to reduce U.S. pressure on Damascus.
Sharon said that Israel has serious problems with Syria, who activates "terror" and gives "terror groups" shelter.
Answering Minister of Science and Technology Eliezer Sandberg’s question, Sharon said that talks with the Syrians would start from scratch, and not from the point in which they ended during the 2000 deliberations between Israel and Syria. Damascus opposes this Israeli stance and clarified it to Sharon through the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher, who visited in Israel last week, Al Watan added.
A senior U.S. official last week said he suspected Assad floated his offer to Israel last month in an interview with The New York Times without intending to engage in genuine peace talks. Nonetheless, the official said, the U.S. government would consult with Israel on the pros and cons of possible responses to Assad's proposal. (Albawaba.com)
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