Israel seeking to ease tension with Lebanon, Syria: Spain

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Israel is trying to ease tension with Syria and Lebanon, the Spanish foreign minister said on Thursday, after Israeli charges that Damascus was smuggling Scud missiles to its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

"Israeli authorities asked me to convey a message to Syria and Lebanon, which is that they seek to ease tension, and they expressed their willingness for negotiations," Miguel Angel Moratinos told reporters in Beirut.

Israeli President Shimon Peres sparked controversy last month when he accused Syria of supplying the Shiite Hezbollah movement with Scud missiles, a charge Damascus has staunchly denied.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has refused to confirm or deny the charge.

Moratinos on Thursday ended a Middle East tour that included Israel, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Lebanon, saying from the Lebanese capital that Israel had "no desire at all to heighten tension".

"I am returning to Spain with a positive feeling that all ... parties, all countries want to move towards peace," said the minister, whose government currently holds the EU presidency.

"Israeli authorities are committed to seeing indirect negotiations with the Palestinians succeed and the Palestinians expressed the same commitment."

Indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmud Abbas opened on Sunday under the aegis of the United States amid tension over Israel's refusal to halt settlement expansion in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

Moratinos also said Syria had "a strong desire for peace and for the continuous search through negotiation for a diplomatic solution to any dispute with Israel".

Turkey brokered indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel in 2008 but they were broken off that December after Israel launched a devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip.

© 2010 AFP

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