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Damascus ready for indirect Israeli talks via Turkey

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has expressed his country’s willingness to resume indirect peace talks with Israel under Turkish mediation in order to achieve peace and stability.

“Damascus is enthusiastic about a new round of Turkish-mediated indirect peace talks to reach a comprehensive peace agreement,” Muallem told Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo on Tuesday.

Under the auspices of Turkey, Israel and Syria launched peace talks in May 2009, seeking to reach a comprehensive peace agreement.

However, negotiations reached a stalemate in September after the resignation of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Syria later withdrew from the talks in objection to the Israeli onslaught on Gaza war in December 2008 that left at least 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, dead.

Syria has called for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights as a precondition for peace between Damascus and Tel Aviv. Israel seized the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed the Syrian territory in 1981.

Raising Damascus’ ire further, Israeli warplanes destroyed Syria’s al-Kibar military site in 2007, accusing the country of harboring a nuclear reactor there — a claim Syria has fiercely rejected.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has expressed opposition to Turkey’s continued role as a mediator in indirect talks with Syria.

“After all the verbal attacks and insults toward us expressed by the Turks, they cannot be considered mediators between us and the Syrians,” Lieberman said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also claimed that Turkey would not be an ‘honest broker’ in any renewed peace talks with Syria, adding that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not a ‘fair mediator.’

Tensions flared between Ankara and Tel Aviv in October 2009 after Turkey banned Israel from participation in a NATO air force drill.

Ankara strained relations further when it refused to take a television drama depicting Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian civilians off the air.

Last December, the Turkish ambassador to Tel Aviv, Oguz Celikkol, was given an official reprimand by the Tel Aviv regime in a fury over the Turkish television drama “Valley of the Wolves,” which depicted Israeli diplomats as masterminds of a child abduction ring.

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