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Syria: No Golan, No Talks

Syria has told the U.S. bluntly that unless Israel agrees as a precondition to hand over the Golan Heights, there will be no peace talks.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 7/16/2009, 5:21 PM

Flash 90

Damascus has told the United States bluntly that unless Israel agrees as a precondition to hand over the Golan Heights, there will be no further peace talks.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has categorically rejected any suggestion of withdrawal from the region, which became a part of Israel in 1981 with the Golan Heights Law.

Syrian troops had previously spent decades using the Golan Heights as a position from which to fire at Jewish farmers and their families in the fields of Israel below.

The area, considered part of the Land of Israel, was captured by the IDF during the 1967 Six Day War.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told Fred Hoff, assistant to U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, that Israel must return the Golan Heights in its entirety and return to the June 4, 1967 borders before talks can resume.

Hoff refused to speak to reporters after the 90-minute meeting, which took place Thursday in Damascus. He is expected to meet later with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On Sunday, Hoff met senior military and defense officials in Israel, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, and National Security Adviser Uzi Arad.

Following his meeting with Hoff, Ayalon said that he had told the envoy that Israel was ready for direct negotiations with Syria without any preconditions, such as returning land.

Ayalon added, however, that it is impossible to talk of peace on one hand and "incite confrontations on the other," pointing to Syria's sponsorship of terror through its warm ties with Iran, and the Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups.