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Olmert intends to resume indirect peace talks with Syria
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20:44, October 31, 2008

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Israeli outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has had an intention to resume the Turkey-brokered indirect talks with Syria during his remaining months in office, local daily Ha'aretz reported Friday.

A meeting would be held between Olmert's office and the bureau of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to coordinate a date for renewing the indirect talks with the Syrians, a senior Israeli government official was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, foreign media also quoted Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev as saying that "the prime minister believes in the importance of continuing the process of negotiations with Syria."

Olmert will remain in office as caretaker until a new government is formed after the announced general elections on Feb.10.

Israel and Syria ended their forth round of Turkish-brokered indirect talks in the same day Olmert announced he was leaving office in the wake of corruption investigations against him.

The fifth round, planned for the beginning of September, was postponed because of the political situation in Israel and the departure of Olmert's aides Yoram Turbovitz.

On Tuesday, visiting Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, who had met Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus a few days earlier, told Olmert that Assad was "very serious" to continue talks with Israel.

Assad will be willing to conduct direct negotiations with Israel while U.S. President George W. Bush is still in office, on the condition that he would receive a satisfactory response from Israel to the "six-point document" he gave the Turkish side in September, according to Moeller.

The document, first made public at a summit in Damascus at the beginning of September, contains three points of the border issues on the Golan Heights and three other points of security issues in the framework of a peace treaty between Israel and Syria.

Peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, still technically at war with each other, foundered in 2000 when then Israeli Prime Minister and now Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused Damascus' request for Israel's full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel seized in 1967 and annexed in 1981 with no recognition of the international community.

The Syrian government has insisted that peace talks can be resumed only on the basis that Israel return the Golan while Israel, for its part, has demanded that Syria abandon its support for Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups.


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