Olmert: Syria talks address current concerns


Israel’s peace negotiations with Syria will take current national security concerns into account, Ehud Olmert said.

“I can say that we are taking these negotiations seriously,” the Israeli prime minister told his cabinet on Sunday, referring to indirect talks with Damascus that were launched in Turkey last week.

“There are and will be very precise and meticulous preparations, to bring our expectations of the negotiations into line with today’s reality, not that of 10 or nine years ago, and with the security and political sensitivities that stem from current realities and not from what we knew in the past.”

Olmert appeared to be trying to distance himself from previous Israeli leaders who agreed in principle to cede all or most of the Golan Heights to the Syrians under a peace accord.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has said it received a similar guarantee from Olmert, though this was denied in Jerusalem. Israel is also pushing for Syria to disengage from Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas – a demand so far rebuffed by Damascus.

The Israeli prime minister described the talks as discreet and potentially protracted.

“I want to say here and now that we have no intention of conducting these negotiations neither in the media, nor in daily statements, nor in slogans,” he said.

“Rather, we will conduct serious and responsible negotiations, with all due caution. Israel has experience in negotiating with the Syrian government, in the past as well. In the past, the public knew that negotiations were being held but the sensitive details and intricacies were naturally kept so that the negotiations might be conducted better.”

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