Olmert: I wanted Syria at Annapolis

Ehud Olmert said it was his idea to invite Syria to the Annapolis peace conference.

The Israeli prime minister said in an interview published Friday that he was pleased with the results of this week’s talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Annapolis, Md., even if he enjoyed only limited engagement with many of the Arab leaders who attended.

Syria was a late addition to the U.S.-hosted talks and sent only a deputy foreign minister, yet Olmert took credit for his attendance.

“Two and a half months ago the Americans asked me if I wanted them to invite the Syrians or not. I asked them, do you want them at the conference? They replied, we don’t. And yet, I said, I recommend that you invite them,” Olmert told Yediot Acharonot.

Israel has voiced interest in reviving peace talks with Syria, but has rejected Damascus’ bedrock demand for new negotiations to be predicated on the return of the Golan Heights.

The Bush administration has its own objections to rapprochement with Syria, especially given the influx of Islamist terrorists from its territory to Iraq.

“Syria is a state that supports terror, including Hezbollah and Hamas,” Haaretz quoted U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley as saying.

“There is a new spirit in the Middle East, a real chance for peace. Will Syria be left on the sidelines or give up its support for terror, leave Lebanon alone, support the Iraqi government and make a decision in favor of peace?”

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