Yesterday I posted about Syria twice, the first talked about a Syria arming for war, the second about a secret Israel/Syria peace outline. Acording to the JPost Ha’aretz may have been wrong. While there may have been secret talks, no deal has arisen from them.
There was no breakthrough with Syria’
JPost.com Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 16, 2007
Israel and Syria both issued vehement denials on Tuesday to a report that there had been secret agreements between the two countries during former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s term as prime minister.
David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister’s Office, said that “the Israeli government is unaware of any such meetings.”
The Syrian Foreign Ministry also denied the reports.
“That there were no contacts and the report is totally false,” said a statement released by the ministry.
Sharon’s former chief advisor Dov Weisglass, former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Yuval Steinitz and former foreign minister Silvan Shalom also refuted the claim.
Weisglass said that Sharon never came across such a agreement.
“It is very possible that a group of people met, negotiated and formulated a document. But, during Sharon’s term as prime minister, did the Prime Minister’s Office obtain an officially approved agreement on this or any other similar procedure? The answer is no,” said Weisglass.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Steinitz said that the report was an “absolute fabrication.”
He said that there had been no official contacts between Israel and Syria when Sharon was prime minister, during which time Steinitz served as FADC chairman.
“There were unofficial contacts,” he said, adding that, as part of a British initiative, he had met with a Syrian representative.
The former FADC chairman said that when he reported the meeting to Sharon, the two agreed that it was impossible to reach any breakthrough with Syria until it uprooted terrorism.
On Tuesday morning, Ha’aretz reported that Israel and Syria had reached understandings on a future peace deal during secret talks held in Europe from September 2004 to July 2006.
Likud MK Shalom told Army Radio that he first learned of the talks by reading the day’s paper.
He said the last contact Israel had with a Syrian representative had been in 2003 over the return of the remains of Israeli spy Eli Cohen.
According to the report, the talks focused on a draft peace agreement, based upon Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights and a return to 1967 borders.
Reportedly, Syria demanded that the move be made within five years, though Israel said the plan would be gradually implemented over 15 years.
Moreover, Syria would be willing to discontinue support for Hizbullah and Hamas, and cut ties with Iran. The report also stated that Israel would have complete control over the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee.
MK Effi Eitam (NRP-NU) said that the apparent draft would “not be worth the paper it’s written on,” adding that the reported secret understandings “do not represent the stance of the Israeli public that is opposed to any withdrawal in the North.”
Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit however expressed support for withdrawing from the Golan Heights in exchange for true peace with Damascus. “I would be prepared to declare a full peace agreement with Syria and recognize Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights on one condition: That the Syrians give Israel the Golan Heights for a period of 25 years and if really there is complete peace…after 25 years we would give the Golan back to Syria,” Sheetrit told Army Radio.
Ha’aretz reported that Israel was represented in the talks by Alon Liel, a former top diplomat, and that Sharon was briefed on the meetings and that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, then finance minister, had been informed.
A woman who answered Liel’s home phone said Liel would have no comment except that he hadn’t represented anyone beside himself.
Itamar Rabinovich, Israel’s former chief negotiator with Syria, played down the significance of Tuesday’s report.
“What we have here is yet another attempt to create an Israeli-Syrian channel. Given the official positions of Syria itself, Israel and the United States, I am doubtful that this is going to lead anywhere,” he said. “By definition (these talks) have to remain informal and secret. The moment that a secret like that it out the channel is dead, it is over.”
Supposedly, the Syrian representative in the talks was Ibrahim Suleiman, an American citizen, who had visited Jerusalem and delivered a message on Syrian interest in an agreement with Israel. The report said Syrian President Bashar Assad initiated the meetings, and that Turkish mediators came the first contacts between the two sides. The Turkish involvement ended in the summer of 2004, when an unknown European took over as the leading go-between.
(The Post from last night about a possible peace deal) Earlier today posted a report from Debka, which indicated that Syria might be preparing for war, by purchasing new high tech weapons funded from their Iranian “rich uncles”
Tonight while reading my favorite blogs, I noticed this report on that Ted posted on Israpundit about a secret deal that may be brewing between Israel and Syria.
Secret understandings reached between representatives from Israel and Syria By Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz
[This is a good deal for Israel and would involve peace agreements with both Syria and Lebanon. Ted Belman]
In a series of secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006, Syrians and Israelis formulated understandings for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.
The main points of the understandings are as follows: An agreement of principles will be signed between the two countries, and following the fulfillment of all commitments, a peace agreement will be signed.
As part of the agreement on principles, Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of 4 June, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remained open: Syria demanded the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked for the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years.
At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret, a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.
Israel will retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret. The border area will be demilitarized along a 1:4 ratio (in terms of territory) in Israel’s favor. According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran. Read the entire article on Israpundit.
So which one is it. War or Peace. Well of course we hope that Ted’s report is right and the Debka article is not. Keep an eye on this space for the information as it happens.