Ben-Eliezer: Israel Wants Peace with Syria

Ad Feedback - JERUSALEM, Israel - National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) told Israel Radio that the government is actively working to restart negotiations with Syria.

His comments come on the heels of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's couched remarks to foreign journalists Wednesday about "secret" talks with Syrian President Basher Assad.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is playing a central in the most recent efforts to restart talks with Damascus, Ben-Eliezer said.

In 2000, during his short tenure as prime minister, Syria rejected Ehud Barak's offer to turn over the Golan Heights, insisting that the deal include further Israeli withdrawal to the eastern shore of the Kinneret.

"We know exactly what the price would be," Ben-Eliezer said, "namely Israel's return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured from Syria in 1967."

Meanwhile, in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem spoke with Arab foreign ministers ahead of a Syrian-sponsored Arab summit, which begins Saturday.

"The aggressive policies and actions that Israel undertakes and that are supported unconditionally by the US create a situation that is not conducive to achieving peace," Moallem told his colleagues.

"Our position on making peace in the Middle East is clear. We are for a just and comprehensive peace and the principle of land for peace, but we are certain Israel is still incapable of having the genuine political will for making peace," he said.

Lebanon is boycotting the summit in protest of Syrian involvement in Lebanese elections vis-à-vis the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah terror group.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are sending delegations of low-level representatives, meant as an affront to Syria.

Sources: The Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post

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