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U.S. prefers Israel-Palestinian talks

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The Bush administration is attaching more hope to the Israeli-Palestinian peace track than renewed Israel-Syria talks.

“We welcome any action that expands the circle of peace,” a State Department official who asked not to be identified told JTA Wednesday after Israel, Syria and Turkey announced the resumption of peace talks in Ankara. “However, we have been clear in explaining that we believe the Israeli-Palestinian track offers the best opportunity for progress and remember, this is what everyone in the region is asking the United States to assist with.”

The official said U.S. backing for an Israel-Syria peace deal would require Syrian concessions in areas that are of marginal concern to Israel, such as Syria’s border with Iraq and its treatment of its citizens.

“It is our hope that discussions between Israel and Syria will cover all the relevant issues,” the official said, “including the Syrian government’s support for terrorist groups, facilitation of the passage of foreign fighters into Iraq and intervention in Lebanon, as well as repression inside Syria.”

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