Israel and Syria are resuming peace talks.
In surprise statements issued simultaneously from Jerusalem and Damascus on Wednesday, the old foes said their representatives have been meeting in Ankara this week to set up peace negotiations under Turkish auspices.
“The sides have declared their intention to conduct the talks without prejudice and with openness,” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said. “They have decided to conduct the dialogue in a serious and continuous manner with the aim of reaching a comprehensive peace.”
Olmert’s two top aides have been in Turkey since Monday, in parallel with counterparts from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Israeli-Syrian talks were last held in 2000 but collapsed over a demand by Damascus for the full return of the Golan Heights, which were lost to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
Assad has signaled no flexibility over the Golan. Olmert, in turn, has preconditioned peace on Syria first disengaging from Iran and ending its support for Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism.
The disclosure that new negotiations are in the works looked likely to stir up right-wing Israeli ire against Olmert, who has already been weakened domestically by a police investigation into his finances.