» 04/24/2008 ISRAEL - SYRIA Assad confirms Israeli proposal: peace in exchange for the Golan Heights But the Jewish state also wants to end support for Hamas and Hezbollah. The role of the Turkish prime minister, who will travel to Syria on Saturday, is confirmed. The news comes in conjunction with a congressional hearing with U.S. intelligence officials on "nuclear" relations between Damascus and North Korea.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Assad confirms: Israel is ready to give back the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, but various sources specify that for Israel, "peace" includes the end of support from Damascus for Hamas and Hezbollah, and of the close ties with Iran. From Gaza, simultaneously, comes the declaration of Hamas, which is ready to suspend all offensive action against the Jewish state, in exchange for a similar commitment from Jerusalem and the end of the blockade of Gaza.
So it is a situation in flux, even if it is impossible to make any kind of prediction about the outcomes. The first move was made by Bashar Assad, who gave an interview to the Qatar newspaper Al Watan, to confirm the news of the Israeli offer. His statements also confirm the mediation role of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who is expected Saturday in Damascus - and the news that negotiations were revived after the war last summer between Israel and Hezbollah. He adds that everything will take place above board. And a Syrian minister, Buthaina Shaaban, clarifies to Al-Jazeera that the restitution concerns "all" of the Heights, which is of strategic importance and rich in water resources. This is an indirect response to one of the questions being asked in Israel, concerning the fate of the colonists who, over more than 40 years, since the war of 1967, have settled in the area.
Israel is not issuing any official statement, but the Jerusalem Post cites the comments of a "Western diplomat", who confirms the Israeli offer, but also clarifies Israel's requests, including the end of support to extremist movements in the region, the removal of the political leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, from Damascus, and greater distance from Iran. The same "conditions" are also reported by the Turkish newspaper Hurryet. For his part, the spokesman of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, Mark Regev, simply repeats one of the premier's statements: "We want peace with the Syrians, and they know what we expect from them".
For its part, the newspaper Yediot Aharonot responds to another question: Why has news of the negotiations, which have been underway for some time, been released only now by an "independent" news agency, Champress, in a country like Syria, where control of the press is extremely strict? According to an anonymous official of the foreign ministry, the explanation lies in the desire to draw international attention away from an upcoming congressional hearing in the United States, in which American intelligence officials could confirm the "nuclear" ties between Damascus and North Korea.