Friday, November 13, 2009

Syria rejects Israel talks at Assad Meeting Sarkozy in Paris

(AJEnglish).Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has said he is not willing to hold face-to-face talks with the Israeli leader, after a meeting in France aimed at restarting the Middle East peace process.

His comments come after meeting Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, who conveyed a willingness by Israel's prime minister to begin peace talks with the Syrians.

Al-Assad said: "If Mr [Binyamin] Netanyahu is serious, he can send a team of experts, and we'll send a team of experts to Turkey. Then we can really talk, if they're interested."

The meeting between al-Assad and Sarkozy in Paris on Friday comes a week after Netanyahu met the French leader.

Sarkozy was expected to hand al-Assad a letter from Netanyahu, in which he says the Israelis are ready to begin talks with the Syrians, with no pre-conditions.

Syria has long had one main pre-condition for talks with Israel - the return of the strategic Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and annexed in 1981.

Al-Assad, speaking outside the Eylsee Palace, said: "Today, Syria wants peace. There is a mediator, Turkey, which is ready to resume its mediation.

"What we lack is an Israeli partner who is ready to go forward and ready to come to a result," he said.