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Bashar Assad and Ehud Olmert may meet at a Paris conference next month.

However, the Syrian president said Thursday that although he plans to attend the same French-hosted July 14 conference of Mediterranean nations as Israel’s prime minister, he would not shake Olmert’s hand or seek a one-on-one encounter.

“This is not like drinking tea,” Assad told reporters during a visit to India. “The meeting between me and the Israeli prime minister will be meaningless without the technocrats laying the foundation, without reaching the final stage.”

Israel and Syria launched Turkish-mediated peace talks last month. Olmert has been pushing for direct negotiations, but Assad has made clear he first wants Israel to take steps toward a return of the Golan Heights.

“Only sending signals without real result is meaningless,” Assad said. “The last few weeks we had some glimmer of hope after indirect negotiations with the help of Turkey.”

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