07/28/2008, 00.00
SYRIA - ISRAEL

Syrian ambassador to the United States, "historic opportunity for Israel to make peace"

The diplomat, believed to be close to president Assad, affirms that with the restitution of the Golan Heights to his country, the Jewish state could put an end to hostility with the entire Arab world.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "Let's sit together, make peace and finish once and for all this state of war" between Israel and Syria: with these words from its ambassador in Washington, Imad Mustafa, Damascus is re-issuing its "offer" of peace. The statement has been emphasized today by the Israeli press, and also reported in various Arab newspapers - but not the Syrian ones - and is considered important both because Imad Mustafa is a high-level diplomat, and because he is considered an adviser to president Bashar Assad.

The statement from the Syrian diplomat in the United States took place during an interview with the movement Pro-Israel Americans for Peace Now, connected to the Israeli group Peace Now. The ambassador did not limit himself to speaking of the possibility of a bilateral peace agreement, but also maintained that this could bring an end to hostilities with the entire Arab world. "The negotiations", he said, "are a historic opportunity for Israel to make peace, not just with Syria and Lebanon, but with the whole Arab world". For this, "Israel must accept Syria's legitimate demand and understand that it will not achieve peace on the northern border as long as it is holding the Golan Heights".

The indirect negotiations currently taking place between Jerusalem and Damascus with the mediation of Turkey have Syria asking for the restitution of the Golan Heights, an elevated plane of about 1250 square kilometers of strategic importance and rich in water resources, conquered by the Israelis during the war of 1967.

Israel's position seems to be more complex. According to unofficial information that has not been denied, Jerusalem, in addition to peace, wants the end of Syrian support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and its distancing from Iran. And it is not to be taken for granted that the restitution would concern the entire expanse of the Heights, on which there are many Israeli settlements. According to Israeli experts, Syria is willing to distance itself from Tehran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, on the condition of economic and political support from the United States. But this puts off the prospect for peace until the next U.S. presidency. At the beginning of this month, in fact, the United States ambassador in Israel, Richard Jones, affirmed that the United States is not against the new negotiations between Israel and Syria, but does not want to take part in them.

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