Syria challenges Israel to move forward on peace
Syria-Israel, Politics, 3/2/1998
A secret report sent from Washington to Israel said that Syria has recently sent positive signals showing it is interested in the resumption of peace talks with Israel, Hebrew daily Maariv reported Sunday. The paper said the report featured positive remarks made by Syria's ambassador to Washington.
Syria's ambassador to Washington, Walid Mu'allem, last week stated that Syria is ready to start negotiations "tommorrow" if Israel wants peace and is willing to continue negotiations from the point at which they broke off after Spain's Medrid conference. Mu'allem emphasysed that if Israel is serious about peace, Israel would not erase previous terms of understanding that have been achieved in previous Syrian-Israeli negotiations that took a long time to reach, adding that to start anew from ground zero every time there is a new Israeli government would never result in an agreement.
The Maariv paper said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Bill Clinton spoke on the phone last week and, contrary to what was reported at the time the discussion, did not focus on the crisis in the Gulf, but on the opportunity which has arisen in favor of the renewal of talks between Syria and Israel. The paper said it obtained a copy of the secret report that came from Washington on Mu'allem's remarks. ³The present situation of no-war and no-peace is equally dangerous to both Syria and Israel,² the ambassador reportedly wrote.
Observers in Washington interpret Mu'allemıs remarks as being a clear political signal. In reports that have come from the US capital, it has been relayed that the Syrians are interested in talks with Israel, with the aim of coming up with a formula that would enable the renewal of talks.
In the meantime, two top aides to Netanyahu left Tel Aviv to Europe Sunday for what was described as a secret mission to a number of European countries to discuss the chances of renewing peace talks with Syria. Israeli cabinet secretary Dany Naveh and Netanyahuıs political adviser Uzi Arad left for Europe to investigate the Syrian issue. Netanyahu himself will follow his two aides and visit by the end of this week a number of European countries, including Germany, Spain, Norway and Britain.
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