Syrian President Bashar Assad reaffirmed Wednesday that his country was ready to restart talks with the government of the new Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, if it agreed to "carry through the conditions for peace" from Damascus. However, Israel rejected to negotiate on conditions, said press reports.
"Everyone knows our conditions for peace. We are ready to engage in negotiations with those who can see them through," Assad said in an interview to appear Thursday in the Asharq al-Awsat daily.
But Israel rejected the conditions put forward by Syria, Haaretz newspaper reported in its online edition Thursday.
Zalman Shoval, diplomatic adviser to Sharon, was quoted by the paper as telling Israel Radio that "the conditions put forward by Syria for a resumption of negotiations are unacceptable."
He was referring to a demand that Israel first agree to a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which the Israelis occupied in the 1967 war.
In the interview, Assad said that so far as the peace process was concerned, his policies had not changed from those of his father.
"I lay claim to that to which president Hafez al-Assad laid claim. I take nothing away, nor do I add anything," he said.
Syria wants peace with Israel to be based on a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
During his campaign, Sharon said several times that were he to be elected, he would not return the Golan Heights to Syria, citing security concerns, said the paper.
Assad said "that he does not want a peace restricted to Syria, but a global peace for the whole region."
"If the Palestinians sign a peace deal, they will impose a new reality on the region. If the Palestinian people accept the agreement, Syria will accept it," said President Assad.
He did, however, express "doubts over whether the Palestinian people would accept an agreement, which would not allow them to recover all their rights."
Asked whether Damascus was ready to receive Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Assad answered that "the doors are open to all Arabs," the agency quoted him as saying -- Albawaba.com