Israel’s Syria overtures unrequited

Syria has not responded to Israel’s recent peace overtures, Jerusalem officials said.

Despite several back-channel and overt calls by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during the past weeks for Damascus to resume peace talks without preconditions, Syrian President Bashar Assad has not answered, Jerusalem officials said Sunday.

Israeli pundits said the silence from Damascus would strengthen views in Jerusalem that Assad’s talk of seeking peace since last year’s Lebanon war has been insincere. Syria has previously conditioned new negotiations on the return of the Golan Heights.

But the Olmert government said contacts would continue through mediators.

“There have been intermediaries, and there will continue to be intermediaries, even in the toughest hours,” Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Israel Radio. “We must never declare the door to peace closed.”

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