Bashar Al-Assad
Bashar Al-AssadReuters

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said on Thursday that his country would only establish ties with Israel if certain conditions are met.

Speaking with the Russian Sputnik news agency and quoted by Middle East Monitor, Assad said that in order to hold negotiations with Israel, it is imperative to “restore all Syrian land” occupied by Israel.

“Our position has been very clear since the beginning of the peace talks in the 1990s, almost three decades ago, when we said that peace for Syria is correlated with regaining our rights,” the Syrian President said.

“We cannot hold normal relations with Israel until we restore our lands. The matter is very simple,” he added.

Assad stressed that “holding talks will be possible only when Israel is ready to return the occupied Syrian lands, but they never been ready, not now, not ever.”

Syria has long refused to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and has demanded the surrender of the region as a condition for peace.

Assad’s comments follow recent reports there is now a “widespread belief” among Arab diplomats that Syria and Israel have resumed secret negotiations, similar to the unofficial talks conducted between Assad’s regime and the Ehud Olmert government in 2008.

Syria later affirmed that it remains staunchly opposed to any normalization agreements with Israel.

A source in the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that Syria "was and will remain against any agreements or treaties with the Israeli enemy based on its firm conviction that such agreements harm Arab causes in general, foremost among which is the Palestinian cause, which has been proven by previous experiences, that normalization and signing treaties and agreements with this enemy only increased its arrogance and obstinacy."