Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called on Syria to open direct, unmediated peace talks without preconditions.
Olmert issued the call Friday in an address to senior kibbutz movement leaders, Israel radio reported.
Olmert has said Syria wants to open peace talks with Israel as a means of neutralizing U.S. demands that it keep out of neighboring Iraq and Lebanon. President Bush had made it clear that the United States will not have a role in such talks. Olmert called on Syria to leave the United States out of the equation, and also not to condition such talks on Israel’s prior agreement to return the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Syria has not explicitly made such a condition, but wants talks to pick up where they left off in 2000, when Israel had made such an offer.