Sunday, November 25, 2007

Syria to attend peace conference

Syria will attend the US-hosted Middle-East peace conference in Annapolis, according to officials.

Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad is due to lead the Syrian team at the conference, which begins on Tuesday.

Syria agreed to go after learning that there would be discussions on reviving Israel-Syria peace moves, which centre on the Golan Heights, officials say.

Damascus had previously said it would not attend the conference unless the Golan Heights were on the agenda.

The meeting is aimed at launching talks for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and for the creation of a Palestinian state.

On Friday Saudi Arabia announced that it would attend, another boost to US efforts to win wide Arab support for the conference.


It is by no means clear to what extent the Golan will indeed be up for negotiation in Annapolis, the BBC's Joe Floto in Jerusalem says.

Correspondents say Syria's decision to send a deputy minister - rather than the foreign minister like other Arab states - may be due to this uncertainty.

Israel has welcomed the Syrian participation but has stressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be the main focus of the meeting.

Sources within the Israeli delegation say the issue of the Golan Heights will not appear on the main agenda.

But they have suggested the territory could still be discussed.

"There will be a plenary session which I will also attend and where issues pertaining to the comprehensive peace in the Middle East can be discussed, and that includes everything," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Sunday.

"The Golan could also be raised there," she said, according to the AFP news agency.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War.

Syria wants to secure the strategic plateau as part of any peace deal.

In Israel, the principle of returning the Golan Heights in return for peace is already established, but previous talks broke down in 2000 over Israel's demand to keep control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee - Israel's main source of water.

1 comment:

William said...

I should think so too. Heaven knows why they have to be so prissy about this.