Israeli PM prefers French for Syrian mediation

8th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said that he would prefer French rather than Turkish mediation in the event indirect talks with Syria are revived.

JERUSALEM - Turkish-mediated indirect talks between Israel and Syria were broken off during the Gaza war at the turn of the year.

"We are ready for immediate negotiations without preconditions," a senior official quoted Netanyahu as telling parliament's powerful foreign affairs and defence committee.

"During our meeting, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told me that the Syrians prefer Turkish mediation and I told him that we prefer either direct contacts or French mediation," Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

Netanyahu met with Sarkozy in Paris in mid-November, and the French leader meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the following day.

Turkey has been Israel's key regional ally, but relations turned sour in January when Ankara launched an unprecedented barrage of criticism of Israel's war on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in December-January.

The last round of direct peace talks between Israel and Syria broke down in 2000 when Israel baulked at the demand for the return of the whole Golan Heights, right down to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Jewish state's main water source.

Israel captured the strategic plateau from Syria in the Six Day War of 1967 and then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community.

Syria has always made the return of the Golan a non-negotiable condition for peace.


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