Russia seeking to help restart Syria-Israel talks
Russia is hoping to be able to persuade Syria to resume peace talks with Israel, with its new Middle East envoy, Vladimir Kartuzov, expected in the region this week to help restart the stalled negotiations, according to a Jerusalem Post report Sunday.
The Israeli daily said Russia’s desire to be involved in the peace process was relayed to Foreign Ministry Director-General Eytan Bentsur during a meeting Friday with Russian Ambassador Mikhail Bogdanov. Kartuzov, a former ambassador to Iraq, is to visit Israel, Syria and Lebanon.
Bogdanov told reporters Friday that Russia, with its historical ties with Damascus has a "duty" to work alongside the US towards advancing the peace process.
Bogdanov also assured Bentsur that recent reports of a major arms deal between Moscow and Damascus are incorrect. The meeting was arranged after Israel requested clarifications about these reports.
The international peace effort on all tracks picks up this week, with United Nations special envoy Terje Larsen heading for Beirut having held talks with Israeli politicians, diplomats and military personnel ahead of the Israeli troops’ planned withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
Over the weekend, Larsen, his lawyers and his cartographers met senior Israeli officials to try to agree on the exact line of international border will take and on how many troops will be added to UNIFIL to patrol what is now the security zone.
During the sessions, it became clear there is no apparent objection to the 1923 Anglo-French agreement on the Lebanese border, to which UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 426 refer. On April 17, Jerusalem informed the UN it intends to withdraw from Lebanon in accordance with these resolutions.
During his meetings with Israeli officials, it was made clear to Larsen that Jerusalem also wants to see Damascus pull its forces out of Lebanon.
The security cabinet will today continue its deliberations on the Lebanon pullback.
SYRIA SAYS ISRAEL TRYING TO DECEIVE WITH LEBANON WITHDRAWAL
Radio Damascus charged Saturday that Israel was trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the United Nations and major powers by vowing to withdraw unconditionally from southern Lebanon by July 7.
"By raising the implementation of (UN) Security Council Resolution 425, Israel wants to lead the great powers and the United Nations astray," the official Syrian radio station said in its daily editorial.
The resolution, approved in 1978, calls for Israel to withdraw immediately and unconditionally from Lebanon, where it occupies a "security zone" just north of their border.
"Discussing the deceptive pull out enables Israel to sneak out of peace... because that way Israel covers up its rejection of a just and comprehensive peace, UN resolutions and the principle of trading land for peace," it said.
Syria's own price for peace with Israel is the return of the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state captured during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. But the two sides have been unable to agree on where their border should lie.
SLA ASKS FOR SPEEDY PULLOUT
For the first time, South Lebanese Army commanders have called on Israel to withdraw soon from the security zone in south Lebanon, Israel Radio reported, quoted by Jerusalem Post.
The request comes in the wake of increased Hizbullah activity in south Lebanon.
The SLA says that Israel is meanwhile tying its hands, the report says.
An investigation into Friday's suicide bombing revealed that the driver of the car-bomb had requested entry to the area, saying he was seeking asylum from the Hizbullah, the radio said – (Several Sources)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )