Are Israel and Syria talking?


Israel hinted at secret talks with Syria.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he wants to resume peace talks with Syria that stalled in 2000, though Jerusalem has balked at preconditions by Damascus such as the complete return of the Golan Heights.

“I hope that the Syrians are prepared to make peace with Israel, and I hope that the circumstances will allow us to sit together,” Olmert told foreign reporters on Wednesday. “That doesn’t mean that when we sit together you have to see us.”

The suggestion that secret contacts already are under way followed media reports that Turkey has been trying to bring together senior Israeli and Syrian officials for discreet and preliminary exchanges of ideas.

Olmert’s comments were echoed Thursday by Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who told Army Radio: “I know that the Israeli government, and he who is empowered by it, are doing everything possible to create a dialogue with Syria.”

Expanding on the unidentified emissary, Ben-Eliezer said that “anyone who meets him, and there are such people, is told in spoken Hebrew that the State of Israel is prepared to sit down tomorrow and talk.”

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