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Home >> World
UPDATED: 08:20, June 07, 2007
Roundup: Israeli PM voices interest of negotiation with Syria
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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday said that Israel wants peace but not war with Syria, expressing the hope of having direct talks with Damascus.

"I'm willing to negotiate directly with the Syrians, but without preconditions," he was quoted by local daily Yedioth Ahronoth as saying, adding that the government is acting on various diplomatic channels in order to deliver this message to Damascus.

Olmert made the remarks during Wednesday's Security Cabinet meeting focusing on the situation on the northern border, which was partially connected with Syria.

The prime minister also stressed that Israel must avoid miscalculations that are liable to lead to a security deterioration, a statement released from the Olmert's Media Adviser said.

Before the meeting, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the local media Wednesday morning that while the Israel Defense Forces was preparing for any scenario, including war, the country must not give up on diplomacy with Damascus.

However, the Security Cabinet decided on the establishment of a ministerial forum, comprising 11 ministers, tasked with evaluating the security threats posed by Syria. The Israel Defense Forces ( IDF) is obliged to brief the forum on the army's operational plans to prepare for a possible conflict with Syria.

Seven officials who had the central roles during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, namely Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Industry Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, were also among the forum members.

The concerns over war danger on northern front are running high after Israeli Military Intelligence found that Syrian President Bashar Assad is well placed to carry out a surprise attack on the Golan Heights, seized during the 1967 Six-Day War.

On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said when observing a drill in the Shizafon army base south of Israel that Israeli troops had been preparing for possible escalation on both Palestinian front and northern front.

The chief of staff was quoted by Yedioth Ahronoth as saying that he did not know whether the security situation in the region would deteriorate to war, but the army should "improve its readiness and fitness, while continuing to fight terror."

Regarding the front with Syria, Peretz, who also attended the military exercise, said, "We have no intelligence indicating that Syria is interested in starting a war." However, he added, "I hope that the escalation in words does not bring about an escalation in reality."

In recent weeks it has been reported that the Olmert government was looking into different options for negotiations with Syria.

Olmert repeatedly claimed that Syrians were interested in the " peace process" in order to end their international isolation.

He, however, accused meanwhile Syria of lacking truly interest in peace with Israel for its policy of housing terrorist organizations, having a close alliance with Iran and shipping arms to Hezbollah.

The conflicting sayings of the Israeli prime minister reflect Israeli government's falter in policy making regarding Syria.

Although Olmert has the willingness to have talks with Syria, but some of his advisors are concerned that an initiative to renew peace talks with Syria might undermine Israel's relations with Washington, which wants to keep Damascus isolated.

Source: Xinhua

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