Occupied Jerusalem: Israel has put out secret feelers to Syria, but has not received a response, Israel's deputy prime minister confirmed yesterday.
The comments came a day after an Israeli newspaper reported that Israel has told Syrian leaders it is willing to give up the captured Golan Heights as part of a peace deal that would require Syria to distance itself from Iran's virulently anti-Israel regime.
Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, speaking yesterday to Israel Radio, confirmed that a message was sent to Syria, but would not describe the content in detail.
"In light of the tensions in the current period, and considering the fact that in the past ... the Syrians sent messages that they want peace, I thought and I still think today that a secret channel is one of the channels for checking intentions and expectations," Mofaz said.
"And such an approach, in a secret channel, was done. And this was said clearly by the prime minister's office. At this stage, there is no Syrian response, or any comment on this issue." Mofaz said he considered a back channel to be important, noting that Israeli peace agreements with other Arab countries started in such a way.
He said Syria seemed to be ambivalent about peace talks with Israel. "At the beginning, they [the Syrians] speak about their desire to renew talks and the process, and after messages are sent, there is no answer," he said. At this stage, he said, Israel is not sure what Syria's intentions are.
Syrian officials were not immediately available for comment.
On Friday, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently sent messages to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad through German and Turkish diplomats saying Israel was open to direct peace negotiations and to give up the strategic plateau it seized in the 1967 Mideast war.
Olmert's office has not commented on the report.