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Leaders of Turkey, Syria Hold Talks on Syrian-Israeli Peace

  • VOA News

The leaders of Turkey and Syria held talks today (Saturday) in a bid by Ankara to mediate possible peace negotiations between Syria and Israel.

Syria's state news agency (SANA) says Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad examined ways to activate the peace process during their meeting in Damascus.

The agency quotes Mr. Assad as saying Syria is ready to cooperate with Turkey on efforts that bring security and stability to the region.

Before departing from Ankara, Mr. Erdogan said Turkey is a natural mediator because it enjoys strong ties with both nations. He said his government can make a positive contribution toward forging peace between Israel and Syria, as well as between Israelis and Palestinians.

President Assad has said a message passed to him through Turkey this week included an offer by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to return the Golan Heights to Damascus in return for lasting peace between the two long-time foes.

Israel says Mr. Olmert did send a message to Syria about resuming peace talks, but the government is not disclosing any further details.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Middle East war, and annexed it in 1981.

Peace talks between the two countries collapsed in 2000, after they were unable to agree on terms for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that overlooks northern Israel and southern Syria.

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