Posted by Joshua on Saturday, September 6th, 2008
Israeli official denies U.S. supervisors will take part in Israel-Syria peace talks
By Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, 06/09/2008
A senior European official visiting Israel told the London-bed Arabic language newspaper Al Sharq al-Awsat that an American observer was scheduled to take part in indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria to be held in Turkey in two weeks, the paper reported Saturday.
An official in Jerusalem, however, told Haaretz the report was untrue and that he had no knowledge of any U.S. involvement in the peace talks, currently being held indirectly under Turkish mediation.
The report, however, included confirmation by an Israeli source that a U.S. official was in fact to act as an observer in the upcoming talks.
The report marks the first time the possibility of U.S. participation in Israel-Syria talks has been brought up since the collapse of U.S. mediated negotiations in the Shepherdstown summit, held in West Virginia in 2000.
The talks, led by then prime minister Ehud Barak, failed to yield any concrete results, but both Syrian and Israeli officials did vow to return to negotiations as soon as possible, but have yet to fulfill that vow.
Syria has said in the past that any successful negotiations would need the participation of American supervisors, and could only be held after President George W. Bush leaves office.
An official in Damascus told Al Sharq Al-Awsat that due to Syrian suspicions towards the United States, it is not clear whether Syria will ask for them to help in negotiations.
U.S. State Department official John Sullivan told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the United States supports continued Israel-Syria talks, but said he could not confirm whether or not U.S. supervisors would participate in any future round of negotiations.
"…The Israeli people would do well to reflect on exactly what that means, and they should start by asking themselves what kind of Israel they want. Is it really worth it to keep occupying other people's land and killing Arabs for a country that then has to cope with the inevitable backlash of its own violence by installing sirens in every city to alert them that it's time to get underground in their bunkers? Or do they want to live in peace with their neighbors? The choice is theirs to make."
Reports of Abbsi's arrest in Syria not yet verified – Najjar
By Nicholas Kimbrell
BEIRUT: Amid speculation on Thursday and Friday that Fatah al-Islam chief Shaker al-Abssi had been detained in Syria, Lebanon's Justice Minister said that if the reports were verified, Lebanon might act to have Abssi extradited. Ibrahim Najjar, the newly appointed justice minister, told The Daily Star that he could not confirm the reports. "I have just asked yesterday about this news, [and] I have to wait and see," he said.
"We need to be sure," he added, "first, that Shaker al-Abssi is in custody, and second, that the Syrians have released such a statement."
When asked if Lebanon may seek extradition of Abssi, if he has indeed been arrested, Najjar said: "If the news is verified and the implementation of the bilateral convention [for normalization between Lebanon and Syria] goes through, then we might ask that he face justice in Lebanon … if all the prerequisites are verified."
A news feed by Naharnet on Thursday reported that Syrian officials had notified visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week that Abssi had been detained.
According to Naharnet, "Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said contacts were under way between security agencies in Damascus and Beirut to determine whether Abssi would be extradited to Lebanon or tried in Syria."
Dubai-based Al-Bayan reported Thursday morning that Abssi had crossed into Syria where he has been in custody for a month and half.
Shaker al-Abssi led Fatah al-Islam in their 15-week war against the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp outside the northern city of Tripoli in the summer of 2007.
The battle took the lives of hundreds of civilians and Fatah al-Islam fighters, as well as 171 LAF soldiers.
After rumors that Abssi had been killed in the fighting, he was reported to have mysteriously escaped the camp.
France working to secure release of abducted Israeli soldier
World Jewish Congress, September 5, 2008
France has passed on a letter for the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was seized by Palestinian militant groups in Gaza two years ago. It was brought by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who attended a summit with the leaders of Syria, Qatar and Turkey in Damascus. The letter from Shalit's father is to be delivered by the Emir of Qatar to the Damascus-based leader of the Hamas movement, Khaled Meshal. French diplomats were quoted as saying that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had been "happy to help" in the Shalit case "but he does not want to be seen as an official, designated middleman". “This is an issue I want to say very little about," Sarkozy told the AFP news agency in Damascus. "What I am interested in is results." On Wednesday, a senior Hamas figure in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahhar, was reported as saying Egyptian-mediated talks for Shalit's release had stalled. He said Israel was continuing to reject Hamas's demands over a proposed prisoner exchange. Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, is seeking the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Peres proposes direct talks with Syria
By Guy Dinmore
Financial Times, September 5, 2008
Syria and Israel should hold direct talks in Jerusalem or Damascus, Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, proposed on Friday.
Mr Peres, who holds a largely ceremonial role as president, extended an invitation to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, beside him as they debated the prospects for peace at the annual Ambrosetti conference on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como.