Damascus: President Bashar Assad said on Thursday that Syria has delivered proposals for peace with Israel to Turkish mediators and would wait for Israel's response before holding any face-to-face negotiations.
Bashar spoke at a highly publicised tripartite summit in Damascus yesterday that brought together Bashar, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatari Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Bashar said the document was intended to serve as a basis for direct talks and that he was waiting for a similar document setting out Israel's position. So far, negotiations have been held indirectly through Turkish mediators.
On Israel, the Syrian president cautioned that the future of negotiations depended on who becomes prime minister in Israel and whether the new leader will be committed to pursuing peace with Syria.
An Israeli official said yesterday that efforts were under way to hold a new round of indirect talks and that it was Israel's “genuine intention'' to reach an agreement. Any direct talks between the sides would have to wait until a new American administration is in place, Bashar said, acknowledging the importance of strong US backing for such an effort.
Bashar did not disclose details of the Syrian proposals, and little information has emerged from four rounds of indirect talks with Israel over the past year.
“We are now discussing a document of ... general principles of the peace process which will be the basis for direct negotiations,'' Bashar said.
He said Syria outlined six points on the issue of the “withdrawal line,'' a reference to the extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and a major sticking point over which direct negotiations collapsed in 2000.
Bashar, in separate remarks to Hezbollah's Al Manar television on Thursday, renewed his country's backing for “resistance'' groups.
“We don't see any interest in abandoning the resistance,'' he said. “Our position has always been clear. Our position toward the resistance against any occupation in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine is firm and has not changed.''
Bashar said a fifth “decisive'' round of indirect talks with Israel in Turkey had been postponed, and said he was waiting for the Israeli political dust to settle, a reference to Ehud Olmert's resignation.