Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is prepared to resume peace talks with Israel without any preconditions and if Israel insists, from the "starting point", according to US Senator Bill Nelson, who met with Assad in the Syrian capital on Saturday.
Nelson, a Democrat senator from Florida, said al-Assad repeated those assertions in the course of their meeting, saying that while he feels it would be best to pick up the negotiations where they were cut off in 2000, if Israel insists, Assad has no objections to starting from scratch, HaAretz reported Tuesday.
Before meeting with Assad, Nelson visited Israel last week, and met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Saul Mofaz.
Nelson said he reported to the American ambassadors in the region on his meeting with al-Assad and would be briefing the US administration on the meeting in Damascus.
Furthermore, Nelson said Assad denied the two rescue airplanes sent to Iran in wake of the Bam quake carried weapons for Hizbullah, with Assad explaining to the senator that with daily direct flights from Damascus to Tehran, there was no need to use the unusual emergency flights for such "transport".
Meanwhile, a senior Syrian media source reacted to the Israeli president's invitation to Assad to visit Jerusalem, and said,"...the proper mechanism for peace is negotiations" and stressed "the problem doesn't lie in visits or initiatives", according to SANA news agency.
Earlier Monday, Israel's ceremonial president Moshe Katsav invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to visit Jerusalem, with "no preconditions."
The source told SANA that this discourse is merely a "pretext to evade the peace process" because peace making in line with the Madrid terms of reference and the international resolutions is the "only way to achieve security and stability in the Middle East".
Meanwhile, Syria's ambassador to the UN, Faisal Mekdad, said Katzav's invitation to Assad "isn't a serious response to the Syrian initiative."
The media source further told the official Syrian news agency that the "partial solutions and media maneuvers don't achieve peace in the region", and added, that the "Beirut Arab Summit included a united Arab vision towards the peace process".
He reiterated Syria's viewpoint on peace, and said the "permanent stance calls for the resumption of negotiations from the point where it stopped at according to [the] Madrid term[s] of reference and the relevant international resolutions."
In the meantime, Israel's president, Moshe Katzav reacted to Assad's rejection to visit Jerusalem and said "I am sorry Assad rejected my invitation. It seems the president [Assad] wasn't made of the same material as former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat". (Albawaba.com)
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