Assad wants to see Obama peace plan

(JTA) — President Obama should formulate a plan for Israeli-Syrian peace, Syrian President Bashar Assad said.

In an interview with Le Figaro on the eve of an official visit Friday to France, Assad said he regretted what he called the lack of willingness of the new Israeli government to continue negotiations.

"But the weak point is the American sponsor," Assad said. "What President Obama has said about peace is good. We’re in agreement on the principle, but, like I just said, what’s the plan of action? The sponsor must lay out a plan of action. He has to be proactive and take the initiative, not be passive and wait for others to act."

Israel and Syria conducted talks through Turkish interlocutors until Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was installed in March; Netanyahu has said he will return to talks as long as it is understood that giving up the Golan heights, captured from Syria in 1967, is not a precondition.

Assad also says he is willing to return to talks without preconditions; on Friday, after his meeting with Sarkozy in Paris, he repeated his willingness to return to Turkish mediation, Israel Radio reported.

The radio also quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Wallid Muallem as speaking to its Paris correspondent, Gideon Kotz; this would be a first, if Muallem were aware of Kotz’s employer. Syrian officials have for years resisted speaking to Israeli media.

Muallem told Kotz that he expected talks to resume soon, and that they would — at least first — remain "indirect," mediated by Turkey.

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