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Israel mulls terms for peace talks with Syria - paper

RIA Novosti

31/05/2007 16:46 TEL AVIV, May 31 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is considering the possibility of resuming peace negotiations with Syria with mediation by a third party, an Israeli newspaper said Thursday.

Citing a government source, the Haaretz daily said Jerusalem is taking stock of the situation. Olmert's entourage is interested primarily in what could be obtained from Syria in exchange for the return of the Golan Heights, occupied 40 years ago, and whether Damascus would be ready to distance itself from Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, and radical Palestinian groups.

"The price is clear. There may be a discussion about the terms of payment and discounts, but the principal question is what Israel will get in exchange. Will it get peace, as was the case with Egypt," the paper quoted Olmert as saying.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly urged Israel, through the media, to restart peace negotiations after a seven-year hiatus.

Damascus's "peace overtures" have been invariably snubbed by Israel, which demanded as a precondition that Syria stop supporting Hezbollah and Palestinian groups, and abandon its strategic partnership with Iran.

Israeli leaders are on record as saying that their position is immutable, but there have been a series of publications in the local press suggesting that Israel might review its Syria policy.

Earlier in May, U.S. President George Bush ordered that unilateral sanctions against Syria be extended for another year, citing its suspected support for terrorism and a continued threat to America's security, foreign policy and economy.

The sanctions ban weapons supplies to Syria, restrict U.S. trade with the Middle East country, and freeze the accounts of those suspected of helping Syria shelter prominent terrorists, or of being involved in the development of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

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