Israel Peace Negotiator Quits; Hamas Leader Leaves Damascus

Syria's peace talks with Israel hang by a tread.

Addendum: Hamas denies political chief Meshaal quit Syria for Sudan
02/09/2008 13:44 DAMASCUS, Sept 2 (AFP)

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Tuesday denied that its political supremo Khaled Meshaal had moved from his self-imposed exile in Syria to Sudan.

“The movement totally denies media reports saying that Khaled Meshaal has left Syria for Sudan,” a Hamas official said in a statement received by AFP. “These reports are false.”

Meshaal visited Sudan in early August to express solidarity with President Omar al-Beshir after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested an arrest warrant for the Sudanese leader over alleged war crimes. However, Hamas said Meshaal had since returned to Damascus.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai on Tuesday, quoting unnamed Palestinian sources, said Meshaal had “moved to Sudan from Syria” allegedly because of the relaunch of indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel. According to the report, which was picked up by Israeli media, there was “an undeclared agreement between Syrian authorities and Meshaal stipulating that the latter should leave Syrian territory.” 

Hamas leader Meshal ‘leaves Syria for Sudan’
By Haaretz

Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported Tuesday that Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal has left Damascus to live in Sudan at Syria’s request, in a move stemming from Syria’s desire to advance indirect peace talks with Israel.

The paper quoted Palestinian sources stating that the move was part of a secret deal between Meshal and the Syrian authorities. Meshal has been based in Damascus since his expulsion from Jordan some ten years ago.

Israeli sources believe that the move signals a serious desire on Syria’s part to advance the negotiations.

Israel and Syria announced in May that they were holding indirect peace talks under Turkish auspices. Since then, senior officials in Jerusalem have stated that Syria has carried out a number of measures that reflect that it is taking talks with Israel seriously.

One of Israel’s key demands in the negotiations is that Syria break off its contacts with Palestinian militants groups, in particular Meshal’s Hamas. 

Report: Israel-Syria indirect peace talks delayed
JERUSALEM, Sept. 1 (Xinhua)

The fifth round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria was postponed due to the resignation of the lead Israeli negotiator, local daily The Jerusalem Post reported Monday.

Yoram Turbowitz, who heads the negotiating team on the Syrian track, has resigned from the position of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s chief of staff, and thus lost his legal authority to conduct negotiations on behalf of Israel, said the report.

As a result, the fifth round of the Turkey-mediated talks, originally scheduled on Thursday, has to be postponed as Turbowitz waits for Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to grant him legal permission to continue to lead the team, according to the report.

Yet the delay has caused Syrian and Turkish officials to speculate over Israel’s intentions, reported the Israeli Army Radio, with some claiming that the decision came in the wake of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent visit to Russia and his statements on Syria’s intentions to buy Russian missiles.

In response, sources at Olmert’s office told the broadcaster that the only reason for the delay was bureaucratic, and Israel is “committed to continuing the talks with Syria and they will be renewed as soon as possible.”

Israel and Syria announced in mid-May that they had started peace negotiations under the auspices of Turkey, some two weeks after a bribery probe against Olmert went public, which led to speculations that such a move was aimed to divert the public attention from the scandal.

The key issue between the two neighbors remains the strategic Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed in 1981. Syria demands the return of the entire highland, yet polls have shown that the Israeli public strongly oppose a full withdrawal.

Comments (29)


1. norman said:

News from the Middle East

02/09/2008 13:44 DAMASCUS, Sept 2 (AFP)
Hamas denies political chief Meshaal quit Syria for Sudan
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Tuesday denied that its political supremo Khaled Meshaal had moved from his self-imposed exile in Syria to Sudan.

“The movement totally denies media reports saying that Khaled Meshaal has left Syria for Sudan,” a Hamas official said in a statement received by AFP. “These reports are false.”

Meshaal visited Sudan in early August to express solidarity with President Omar al-Beshir after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested an arrest warrant for the Sudanese leader over alleged war crimes.

However, Hamas said Meshaal had since returned to Damascus.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai on Tuesday, quoting unnamed Palestinian sources, said Meshaal had “moved to Sudan from Syria” allegedly because of the relaunch of indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel.

According to the report, which was picked up by Israeli media, there was “an undeclared agreement between Syrian authorities and Meshaal stipulating that the latter should leave Syrian territory.”

Al-Rai said its sources “did not rule out” that Meshaal’s alleged departure from Syria was linked to “progress” in the Turkish-mediated talks between Syria and Israel.

The two countries announced in May they had resumed indirect peace talks after an eight-year freeze. Four rounds of talks have taken place so far and a fifth is due soon, according to Israeli public radio.

The negotiations broke down in 2000 over the fate of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981 in a move not recognised by the international community.

As a condition for progress, Israel is demanding that Damascus break off its ties with Iran as well as with Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Israel considers both groups to be terrorist organisations.

Syria has said it would reject any preconditions in the talks that call on it to change its relations with other countries or groups.

Meshaal said in June that the peace talks would not affect relations between Hamas and Syria, which is home to a number of radical Palestinian groups.

In Khartoum, Mahgoub Fadl, a spokesman for Beshir, said there was “no information” about reports suggesting that Meshaal had moved to Sudan.

Meshaal settled in Damascus after being expelled from Jordan in 1999 amid accusations that Hamas was threatening the kingdom’s security and stability.

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September 2nd, 2008, 2:39 pm

 

2. Alex said:

I would be careful with the story from Al-Rai newspaper.

Here it is in Arabic:

ذكرت مصادر فلسطينية لـ «الراي» ان رئيس المكتب السياسي لحركة «حماس» خالد المشعل «انتقل إلى الاقامة في السودان بدل دمشق»، وأوضحت ان «اتفاقاً غير معلن تم بين السلطات السورية ومشعل يقضي بأن يغادر الأخير الأراضي السورية».
ولم تستبعد المصادر أن تكون مغادرة مشعل لدمشق «في سياق التقدم المستمر في العلاقات السورية- الإسرائيلية عبر المفاوضات التي تجرى»، مستشهدة بتقارير نشرت في صحف غربية تشير إلى ان تسويات أخرى كثيرة «قد تكون تمت في اطار هذا السياق منها تصفية (أو تسهيل تصفية) عماد مغنية والعميد محمد سليمان».

The last paragraph quotes the unidentified Palestinian source of the Meshaal story adding:

“Meshaal’s departure from Damascus is one more consequence of the continuously improving Syrian Israeli relations and it is part of a basket of settlements that included the facilitation of the assassination of Imad Moughnyieh and General Mohammad Suleiman”

Although it is possible that Meshaal might leave Damascus at some point if a peace agreement is finalized, for now this story sounds quite unreliable to me. The source is one of many “moderate Arabs” (probably from Fatah) who are now portraying Syria as a selfish deal maker in the process of selling the Arabs and their causes and protecting its own selfish interests …

Pick any editorial in Asharq Alawsat and you will get the same message.

Also .. I noticed that Al-Rai did not give the story much prominence … If they believed it to be true, I would imagine they would have placed it on top of page 1.

Here is their on-line headlines:

http://www.alraialaam.com/Alrai/Default.aspx

And here is the actual newspaper’s page1:

http://www.alraialaam.com/Alrai/Resources/PdfPages/AlRAI/10655/P01.pdf

the Meshaal story did not make it to page 1

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September 2nd, 2008, 4:04 pm

 
 

4. Innocent_Criminal said:

Syrian TV just confirmed that there will be a 4 way summit on thursday in Damascus

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September 2nd, 2008, 5:36 pm

 

5. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

One way or another Meshal will eventually leave Damascus. Most probably he will leave like Mugniyeh left. He is a dead man walking. The state of Israel has a long memory and Meshal who has the blood of hundreds of Israeli civillians on his hands will pay the price. I am certain of this as I am certain that the sun will rise tomorrow.

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September 2nd, 2008, 6:11 pm

 

6. Shai said:

I’m actually surprised at Ha’aretz for posting the Meshaal article. Surely the Al-Rai newspaper does not substantiate enough the claim, especially as Hamas itself denies it. I agree with Alex, chances are that Khaled Meshaal is nice and comfortable still in Damascus, until such time as would clearly benefit Syria to ask him to leave (if ever). Last time Israel tried to end Meshaal’s life, we paid for it with the release of Sheikh Yassin. If we try again, and fail, what will be the price this time?

For the record, Israel has never denied, or confirmed, having assassinated Mughniyeh. The Syrian investigation has yet to put the blame on anyone, as far as I know. But clearly if Hezbollah will seek revenge, it’ll be against Israeli/Jewish targets, not Santa Claus. And then Israel will retaliate… and we’re back in Summer 2006 (with HA having 40,000 rockets, instead of 10,000 last time). Let’s hope cooler heads will prevail.

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September 2nd, 2008, 6:41 pm

 

7. offended said:

AIG, I wonder why you ever bother to explain? Nobody has ever disputed your bloodthirst.

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September 2nd, 2008, 7:15 pm

 

8. Karim said:

Pour les francophones ,vous pouvez visionner la fraîche interview de Bashar sur le site de France 3.(dans la marge de droite ,section video)

http://info.france3.fr/monde/46015465-fr.php#

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September 2nd, 2008, 10:00 pm

 

9. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Offended,
Your guests, such as Meshal and Mugniyeh, tell who you really are 1,000 times more than your shallow words.

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September 2nd, 2008, 11:00 pm

 

10. Qifa Nabki said:

High stakes all around as Sarkozy brings his gambit to Damascus
By The Daily Star

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Editorial

French President Nicolas Sarkozy brings an ambitious agenda with him to Damascus this week. He has been widely accused of an over-eagerness to engage with Syrian leader Bashar Assad, but such criticism will retain little resonance if French diplomacy achieves even part of its goals. The centerpiece of Sarkozy’s visit will be a four-way summit that will put him and Assad at the same table as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The guest list is no coincidence: Turkey has become a valuable broker by mediating indirect talks between Syria and Israel, while Qatar has earned its spot by helping to settle a long-running constitutional crisis pitting pro- and anti-Syrian political forces in Lebanon. Moreover, Sarkozy, Sheikh Hamad and Assad each hold the rotating presidencies of major regional bodies: the European Union, Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League, respectively.

Among others, the issues expected to be discussed during Sarkozy’s visit are expected to include both general and specific elements of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel’s continuing occupation of Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms, Syria’s role in Lebanese politics, plans for regional oil and gas pipelines that may have been jeopardized by the crisis in Georgia, other forms of economic cooperation, and the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Clearly, Sarkozy means to enhance France’s fortunes and influence in a rapidly changing Middle East by helping to shape a new diplomatic configuration. Sheikh Hamad and Erdogan have similar goals, while Assad is primarily concerned with solidifying his regime’s emergence from isolation.

It is important for several actors to take careful stock of the situation. Many of the issues in play involve both Syria and Iran, for example, but it is the host of the summit, Damascus, which stands to be credited with success or blamed for failure. Then there is Lebanon, which would do well to eschew its usual institutional lassitude by following up very quickly with the Qataris, the French and the Turks to determine the likelihood of timely Syrian cooperation on such pressing matters as establishing the Lebanese identity of Shebaa. As for Iran, it has vested interest in paying close attention to what its Syrian allies are up to on what Tehran regards as more tactical levels.

It is no secret that several powers – large and small, indigenous and not – are anxious to create a new regional order and to increase their own respective statures within it. It is also plain that there will be no going back to the uneasy balance prevailing before the US-led overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003. Less obvious is what kind of model has the best chance of ending the Middle East’s perennial volatility – and how best to develop and build support for such a model when so many of the necessary players are at odds with one another and/or coping with precarious internal situations that have relegated long-range planning to the backburner.

In addition to these challenges, summit participants and observers alike will operate on the assumption that come what may, little real progress will be achieved until a new US president takes office in January 2009. In no way, however, does that diminish the importance of getting the talks right. Even if the only purpose is to lay the groundwork for future processes and structures, the stakes are too high – particularly for Damascus – to see this week as anything but crucial for those who genuinely want the peoples of the Middle East to know less trying forms of existence.

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September 3rd, 2008, 12:09 am

 

11. ghat Albird said:

Another attempt at suckering the Palestinians/Arabs into a shelf agreement by Israel. Will they eventually learn or stick to this bellitlling posture as examplified by a leading zionist: “with the Arabs and the Palestinians…..those people. It’s like a diet – they will lose a lot of weight, but they just won’t die.”

Israel Today Staff
Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Olmert invites world to help him divide Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the weekend invited the international community to help him and the Palestinian Arabs divide the city of Jerusalem between them as part of a final status peace deal.

According to the proposal, major international powers like the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations would be asked to act as official advisors in the process of partitioning the Israeli capital.

Olmert hoped that his latest concession over Jerusalem would convince Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to agree to an “shelf” final status peace agreement when the two men met on Sunday.

Olmert is reportedly determined to hammer out some kind of deal that will be binding on the next prime minister before he is officially ousted from power when his ruling Kadima Party holds its primary election later this month.

Israel Radio reported that it was Olmert’s intention to fly to Washington with Abbas within the next two weeks to present an “agreement on principles” to US President George W. Bush, whom it is assumed would be pleased with that outcome, having previously declared that he would be the American leader to oversee an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

But Abbas was not biting, and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat later told Israeli reporters that the Palestinian leader insisted he would not sign any agreement that did not meet all his demands in full.

“Abbas told Olmert that we will not be part of an interim or shelf agreement. Either we agree on all issues, or no agreement at all,” said Erekat.

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September 3rd, 2008, 12:26 am

 

12. norman said:

Sarkozy maps path of Mideast peace ahead of Syria trip
by AFP on Wednesday, 03 September 2008

DON” STOP NOW: French president Sarkozy (pictured) is picking up where the US left off. (Getty Images)French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on the eve of a high-profile visit to Damascus that peace in the Middle East “passes through” Syria and France, according to an interview to be published on Wednesday.

“As I told President Bashar Al-Assad when he came to Paris on July 12, the path of peace in this region passes through our countries,” Sarkozy told Syria’s Al-Watan daily, which is close to government circles.

“Syria can provide an irreplaceable contribution to solving Middle East issues. It is important that Syria plays a positive role in the region,” he said in the interview, an advance copy of which was sent to newswire AFP.

A summit on indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel will be held Thursday in Damascus involving France, Syria, Turkey, and Qatar, the French presidency said Tuesday.

Story continues below ↓
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Sarkozy’s visit to Damascus is “political”, the French presidency underlined, adding that the four-way talks were initiated by Syria.

The French leader’s two-day trip, beginning Wednesday, is the latest step towards normalising relations that were frozen after the 2005 murder of Lebanon’s former premier Rafiq Hariri, a close friend of Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac.

The first visit by a Western head of state in five years, it is seen at home as a diplomatic victory for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, six weeks after he made a comeback on the world stage with a high-profile trip to Paris.

“I can say that today a new era between Syria and France based on France’s new policy, a realistic, pragmatic policy that is aimed at achieving peace and calls for dialogue,” the Syrian president told French TV.

While in Paris in July, Al-Assad had asked France to co-mediate, along with the United States, in negotiations towards a peace accord between Israel and Syria.

“President Sarkozy agreed [to this], as well as Israel and the United States,” said the French presidency.

Israeli and Syrian envoys have held talks in Turkey – without meeting face-to-face – on four occasions since May, when the talks were relaunched after an eight-year freeze. The last round was at the end of July.

Thursday’s meeting will bring together Assad and Sarkozy, along with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

France currently holds the presidency of the European Union, while Syria heads the Council of the Arab League and Qatar is the current chair of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

During meetings Wednesday ahead of the summit, Sarkozy will raise other issues with Assad, including the fate of Franco-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was taken hostage by Hamas in Gaza more than two years ago, according to the French presidency.

“We have a simple message: that Shalit be released… The president of the republic is devoted to this case,” said the French Elysee Palace.

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday also called on Sarkozy to raise the plight of jailed activists and demand a probe into a deadly prison riot when he meets Al-Assad.

The rights group cited 12 activists on trial for attending a meeting of the Damascus Declaration opposition grouping, as well as two activists jailed for calling for improved ties between Lebanon and Syria – one of Sarkozy’s policy aims.

The main issue dividing long-time enemies Israel and Syria remains the strategic Golan Heights, seized by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed in 1981 in a move not recognised by the international community.

Syria has demanded the return of the entire territory running down to the banks of the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s main source of fresh water.

Israeli officials have remained tight-lipped about the Golan Heights but said they are willing to make major concessions for peace.

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September 3rd, 2008, 1:38 am

 

13. Ras Beirut said:

Wonder what’s the hurry with Olmert. Is it because he’s leaving soon & worried that his party might not be able to form a coalition government? Thus having a new election where Bibi might win, and Bibi backs away from the peace process?

Or is it, just a legacy thing? One never knows what politicians are really after (and that goes for all pols around the world, not trying to pick on Olmert).

Though, I do think his idea on Jerusalem is good.

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September 3rd, 2008, 1:55 am

 

14. Karim said:

Sarkozy in fact has historical family ties with the region,his grand-grandfather was a levantine “Ottoman” jew who studied in the prestigious imperial college of Galatasaray in Constantinople.
But he should not forget that he is also representative of the country of human rights and the universal values and he should tell Bashar that Syria can not remain under an arbitrary regime.
Bashar has no other choice ,or he changes the country towards more democracy ,freedom and returns the rights that his regime has stolen from the Syrian people if not his regime will have a bad end for sure.

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September 3rd, 2008, 2:08 am

 

15. norman said:

Karim,

I do not know if you answered my question about how many Sunni and how many Alawi minsters in the Syrian government , can you tell today , That is if you know .

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September 3rd, 2008, 2:20 am

 

16. Karim said:

Norman,i really don’t care about the number of the Sunnis and Christians in the Syrian government.Syria is a Muslim country and i don’t fear for the future of Islam in this country and this whatever the colour of the government is,so no problem if half of our ministers are Christians or Alawites but it must be a liberal government under the control of an elected Parliament.But what is important for me is that you Norman and your children live with dignity in your country not in danger of being kidnapped,tortured or humiliated by these half men.I believe in the sovereignty of a democratic state in which there is no statues/portraits of dictators and worshippers of the evil.And i hope that our children will not be domesticated by a dictatorial rule.
This regime is based on fear ,it fears the people and it can not be at ease if it doesn’t maintain a climate of fear.
This situation has many unhealthy repercussions on the people ,it make them corrupt and psychologically affected or they look for reassurance in the religion.
Syria had a wonderful civil society in the past ,this is the motor of change in which i believe.

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September 3rd, 2008, 3:32 am

 

17. Shai said:

Ras Beirut,

I think you hit it on the nail. It’s both things, I believe. Olmert doesn’t want to leave office remembered as the ex-Likudnick with 7 serious investigations of corruption against him. He wants to also be remembered as someone who brought peace to Israel, or at least helped put us back on the path. He of course doesn’t want to leave that to Netanyahu. But, even the Palestinians realize that closing a deal now is silly. Neither leader can deliver an agreement, and the distance between the two sides is still huge, especially on the most sensitive issues. And, that’s not even taking into account Hamas. How can we make an agreement with a so-called “representative” of only 50-60% of the Palestinians? Today, we essentially have four different Palestines – Those in the West Bank under Fatah rule, those in Gaza under Hamas rule, those in Israel, under “Jewish” rule, and all the refugees in the Diaspora.

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September 3rd, 2008, 3:33 am

 

18. Karim said:

We hope a gesture for Michel Kilo and the other members of Damascus and Beirut Damascus declarations .
In which country in the world such people are in prison?

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September 3rd, 2008, 7:13 am

 

19. Shai said:

Ynet reports that a 5th round of talks will take place in Turkey next week, on September 7th. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3591314,00.html

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September 3rd, 2008, 8:49 am

 

20. offended said:

AIG, but my shallow words are spot-on in this case; Mesh3al, Meghneya and others are byproducts of your savage and barbaric occupation of Arab lands. Look at the root of the illness and not the symptoms.

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September 3rd, 2008, 9:18 am

 

21. Akbar Palace said:

… Mesh3al, Meghneya and others are byproducts of your savage and barbaric occupation of Arab lands.

Offended,

Let’s be honest. It’s not about any “barbaric occupation of Arab lands”, it’s about the State of Israel.

PLO, Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian and Lebanese terrorism was established well before any “barbaric occupation”.

Terrorism is a by-product of the brainwashing from the madrassas and the Arab government-controlled media and clergy.

http://www.memri.org/

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September 3rd, 2008, 11:20 am

 

22. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Offended,
For 60 years the Arab dictators have been blaming Israel for no freedoms, no economic growth, terrorism etc. Yes, it is true that some simpletons believe it. Otherwise the Arab regimes would not use this tactic. But the truth is that Arabs are responsible for their own future. Israel has nothing to do with this. Economic growth is not related to the conflict as Israel has proven. Giving Human rights to your own citizens is not related to the conflict as Israel has proven.

There is absolutely no excuse for Syria to host Mugniyeh and Meshal unless you buy into mobster mentality. There are many other ways for Syria to support the Palestinians that do not require terrorism and are also much more effective. But, you of course are not willing to take responsibility for anything and are quick to blame Israel. On the one hand this is sad. On the other, as an Israeli why should I complain? This is at the core of Syria’s weakness, and if you do not want to improve it, why should I care? Stay the way you are and let’s talk again in 20 years.

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September 3rd, 2008, 1:27 pm

 

23. MSK* said:

Dear Josh,

Your title & subsequent first sentence are (again?) rather misleading.

Yoram Turbowitz did NOT quit his job as the peace negotiator but, as the article you yourself featured, his post as Olmert’s chief of staff. This has to do with internal Israeli politics pre-Olmert’s resignation. And, he immediately applied to Attorney General Menahem Mazuz “to grant him legal permission to continue to lead the team” — hardly the act of someone ‘quitting’ the negotiations.

Hence, this doesn’t mean that Israel’s peace negotiations with Syria “hang by a thread” – this is causing a (minor) delay, but not more.

And it’s not like there’s any rush. The Syrian regime has consistently said that there will be no direct negotiations until after the new US president is in office (i.e. early 2009).

When did you get so sensationalist?

–MSK*

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September 3rd, 2008, 2:14 pm

 

24. norman said:

‘Israel-Syria talks to focus on borders’

Sep. 3, 2008
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
A fifth round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria are scheduled to begin on September 7 in Istanbul, according to reports in the London-based Arabic dailies on Wednesday.

According to French sources quoted by Asharq Alawsat, previous talks have been fruitful and the fifth round will focus on demarcating a future border following Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights. According to a French source quoted by Al Hayat, sketching the border would be “the main topic” of the discussions.

The sources claimed that Israel and the US had reached an agreement according to which France would take part in the mediation between the two parties as soon as the talks become direct.

The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the reports in the Arab press.

The reports of France’s possible involvement in future talks came as French President Nicholas Sarkozy was scheduled to land in Damascus, marking the first visit by a Western head of state in several years. Sarkozy will be joined in Damascus on Thursday by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the sponsor of the Israel-Syria talks thus far, and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa. The three of them are scheduled to hold a summit with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On Tuesday, Assad declared that indirect negotiations with Israel had brought “the possibility of peace,” although the two countries still had quite a way to go to reach that goal.
In an interview with France-3 television, the Syrian leader said officials from both sides, as well as from Turkey, were working to make direct negotiations happen.

“Today there is a possibility of peace,” Assad said. “But nonetheless, we cannot say that we are close to achieving peace. We are preparing for direct negotiations. When we reach that step, we will be able to say that we are approaching peace.”

“Today, we can only say that we have opened the door to peace,” he said, in remarks in Arabic that were dubbed over in French.

On Monday, Turkish sources said that there was no new date scheduled for the fifth round of talks, which was originally scheduled for last week.

There has been speculation that the delay in the talks was due to a bureaucratic problem. Olmert’s chief of staff, Yoram Turbowicz, headed the Israeli delegation but quit his post in the beginning of August, just after Olmert announced his intention to resign following the Kadima primaries.

At the time, Olmert asked Turbowicz to stay on and deal with the diplomatic issues he had been heavily involved in, primarily as a liaison with Washington and heading the talks with Syria. The legal aspects of Turbowicz working as a volunteer, or setting up a new framework for him in the Prime Minister’s Office, have not been resolved and are being dealt with by the attorney-general, giving rise to speculation that the talks will be delayed until the issue is sorted out.

Herb Keinon and AP contributed to this report

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1220353269895&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
[ Back to the Article ]
Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post – http://www.jpost.com/

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September 3rd, 2008, 2:42 pm

 

25. norman said:

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

——————————————————————————–

Last update – 19:03 03/09/2008
Report: Israel, Syria to discuss border in next round of talks
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Syria on Wednesday on a visit that will boost Damascus’s efforts to rejoin the international fold and put the onus on it to cooperate further on Lebanon.

France has taken the lead in the West to re-engage with Syria after President Bashar Assad embarked on indirect peace talks with Israel and adopted what was perceived as a more conciliatory stance towards Lebanon.

Sarkozy, who will be meeting Assad shortly, is the first Western head of government to visit Syria since the 2005 assassination of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri, which French officials believe was orchestrated from Syria.

Behind the visit is also a push to bring Syria away from the influence of regional power Iran, which the U.S. and its European allies suspect of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Al-Hayat: Israel-Syria peace talks to resume on Sunday
Peace talks between Israel and Syria will resume this coming Sunday, according to a report in Wednesday editions of the Lebanese newspaper Al-Hayat. Citing French diplomatic sources, the report stated that the next round will be especially significant as it will deal with establishing a permanent border between the two countries. The issue of border is considered a potential deal breaker from the Syrian standpoint.

French officials say the two sides are at loggerheads over the route of the border. While Israel’s position states that the border between the two states should run along the 1923 international border, Damascus would like Israel to withdraw to the lines which separated the two sides prior to June 4, 1967.

While there are detailed maps which delineate the international border which was drawn by the British and French mandatory authorities which ruled Palestine and Syria, respectively, there are no maps indicating the precise border route between the two states in the days prior to the Six-Day War. As such, there is room for a flexible interpretation of the border despite earlier Syrian statements indicating that there would be no compromise on this issue.

Related articles:

Syria President: Door is open to peace with Israel

Hamas leader Meshal ‘leaves Syria for Sudan’

Diplomat: Russia to up naval presence in Syrian ports

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September 3rd, 2008, 5:30 pm

 

26. Alex said:

First solar plant in Syria

Syria is going solar with a German company being given the green light to set up the country’s first solar power plant, it was announced on August 8.

The state-owned General Company for Electrical and Communication Works (Syrianet) awarded Alternergie, a German firm active in renewable energies, the SYP 3.85bn (EUR 50m) contract to set up Syria’s first solar power plant in the industrial city of Hassia, near Homs.

Syrianet technical consultant Maher Shahirli said the plant would be erected on an area of 300 hectares and start operations by the end of the year with an initial capacity of 10mw. It is envisaged the plant’s capacity could eventually be expanded to produce 1,000mw.

“This solar power plant demonstrates the government’s interest in turning towards renewable energy,” Shahirli said. “Syria enjoys round-year sunny weather and Europe has started to realise how vital it is to benefit from this by connecting with Syria through Turkey.”

According to the agreement, Alternergie will construct and equip the plant, while Syrianet will supervise installation and then manage, operate and maintain the facility.

Syrian electricity minister Khalid al-Ali said the new project was part of a plan to produce 300mw of solar energy annually by 2009. He said the solar plant at Hassia would help cover the energy requirements of the industrial city where it is located.

As Syria’s oil production declines, the country is increasingly looking towards renewable sources of energy to cover a domestic energy demand growing by between nine and 10 percent annually. The government recently assigned four sites to be used as wind farms, each with a capacity of 100mw and a cost of SYP 7.7bn (EUR 100m). The first wind station is also expected to be opened in Hassia on 555 hectares in an arid and year-round windy area.

The government also recently introduced a program to subside the purchase of solar panel hot water heating systems. The greater uptake of solar water heaters is expected to help cut Syria’s household electricity consumption which totals around 50 percent of all consumption.

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September 3rd, 2008, 5:42 pm

 

27. norman said:

Alex,

That is great,

Homs can be a good place for wind mills , the wind is severe there.

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September 3rd, 2008, 5:54 pm

 

28. Shai said:

Norman,

Thanks for the articles.

MSK,

Indeed Turbowitz resigned merely from government, not from his post as chief negotiator/advisor. But Mazuz may decide not to grant him permission. We should know in the next day or two. Either way, it seems they’ve solved the problem, and will have the 5th round next week. This round is very important, not only because it will most likely determine whether the two sides are ready for a final draft agreement, but also because it may help Livni get elected in the Kadima primaries on the 17th (or Mofaz, if the talks don’t fare well). There’s a lot at stake here…

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September 3rd, 2008, 6:16 pm

 

29. norman said:

Shai,

You are the ultimate optimist , I ma glad you are here.

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September 4th, 2008, 2:49 am

 

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