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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Syrian FM: Returning Golan not a precondition for peace talks

Last update - 14:32 16/12/2006

Syrian FM: Returning Golan not a precondition for peace talks

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in an interview with the Washington
Post on Saturday that the returning of the Golan Heights to Syrian hands would
not be a precondition of any peace talks with Israel.

"There are no preconditions," Moallem told the Washington Post. "A
constructive dialogue has to start without preconditions. Dialogue has a
literature (of proper procedure). You don't put demands. You put agreed goals.
Under this, you put each side's commitment to achieve the goals in a parallel
way," he said.

Moallem did not mention in the interview the traditional Syrian stance that
peace talks with Israel must begin at the same point they left off in the
past. However, the official Syrian standpoint is that in the 1990s, then Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin had promised a complete Israeli pullout from the Golan
Heights in return for a peace agreement with Syria.

Moallem said that during the negotiations with Rabin, 90 percent of the issues
had been settled. However, there had been, on Israel's part, a lack of the
political required to achieve the "noble goal."

Moallem told the Washington Post that peace between Israel and Syria would
secure Israel's northern border, because it would include peace with Lebanon
and the Palestinians. Moallem called on the U.S. to allow Israel to advance
towards peace with Syria, saying that in the past it had not been an American

Moallem added that should peace not be achieved, the region would collapse
under the weight of religious civil wars and the rule of extremists.

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