U.S. official launches Syria effort

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A senior U.S. diplomat launched an effort to restart Israel-Syria talks.

Fred Hoff met Wednesday in Israel with Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli deputy foreign minister.

Hoff, a senior member of the team of top U.S. Middle East negotiator George Mitchell, reportedly has drawn up a detailed final-status plan that would include shared control of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau captured by Israel in 1967, for a number of years.

Hoff is "currently in Israel meeting with senior officials, and after Israel, he does plan to visit Damascus," Ian Kelly, the State Department spokesman, said Wednesday. "The visit is part of ongoing efforts by Senator, or special envoy, Mitchell and his team to secure a lasting comprehensive peace in the region."

In a statement, Ayalon said he "emphasized that Israel is prepared to enter direct negotiations with Syria with no prior conditions" and "further emphasized that that it is impossible to talk of peace on the one hand and to incite confrontations on the other, as Syria is doing via proxies such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, and by strengthening relations with Iran."

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