Posted by Joshua on Friday, November 23rd, 2007
Syria says Golan Heights on Annapolis agenda
Friday, November 23, 2007; 10:17 AM
DAMASCUS (Reuters) – The United States has agreed to put the occupied Golan Heights on the agenda of the Annapolis peace conference but Syria will decide whether to attend when it receives the schedule, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Friday.
"The United States has sent confirmation that it will include the Syrian-Israeli track… the Golan… on the Annapolis schedule," the Syrian news agency quoted Moualem as saying.
"Syria will decide whether to attend or not in light of the schedule it receives," he added.
There was no immediate comment from Washington.
The Damascus government has repeatedly said it would only attend the U.S.-hosted conference, which aims to restart talks on Palestinian statehood, if the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, are on the agenda.
Moualem was in Cairo for a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to prepare a common strategy for the Annapolis conference on November 27. He said Syria learnt about the inclusion of the Golan through Arab ministers who contacted Washington about the issue.
Pro-U.S. Arab governments have been putting pressure on Syria to attend the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, even if the Golan is not explicitly on the agenda. Diplomats say there will be a session about comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace that addresses the Golan.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, David Welch, said on Tuesday that the Syrians were entitled to "express their views and their national interests" at the conference.
"We think it (Annapolis) represents an opportunity for all those who would like to make meaningful steps toward peace to come and represent their views," he said, when asked whether Syria could raise the issue of the Golan Heights at Annapolis.
"We won't turn off the microphone," said Welch.
(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Dominic Evans)