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Greek Official Visits Syria in Bid to Advance Peace Talks

Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou flew to Damascus last week for talks with Syrian President Hafez Assad in a bid to advance stalled Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations, government sources here said.

“The purpose of the visit is to promote the Middle East peace process and bilateral relations,” government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said.

On a recent trip to the region, Greece’s defense minister, Gerasimos Arsenis said Greece was prepared to act as a go-between for Syria and Israel and to participate in a multinational force of observers on the Golan Heights, in the event of an Israeli pull-out from the area.

Although officially Israeli diplomats in Greece say that “any mediation that will further the Middle East peace process is welcomed,” privately nobody is holding his breath.

“The whole idea of Greece mediating any Middle East dispute looks more than ridiculous,” said a veteran diplomatic observer of Israeli-Greece relations.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Greek opposition, Miltiades Evert, has scheduled a visit to Israel this week. Though invited by the Likud Party, Evert is also slated to meet with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and other government officials.

Evert is the son of Angelos Evert, who as chief of police during the Nazi occupation of Greece, saved thousands of Jews by providing them with false identity cards.

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