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Peace talks resume between Israel and Syria

Israeli officials said Sunday indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria have resumed, with Turkish mediation.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Israeli officials said Sunday indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria have resumed, with Turkish mediation.

The officials, who are close to the talks, said two top aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are in Ankara, Turkey for the talks. They said a Syrian delegation is also there, and Turkish officials are shuttling between them.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the contacts are not public. They said the talks resumed Sunday and are expected to continue on Monday.

Israel and Syria are bitter enemies. Previous peace talks broke down in 2000. Last month the three countries involved announced that the indirect contacts have been going on for months. No results have been made public.

There was no immediate comment on resumption of the talks from Syria or Turkey.

Also Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that Israeli and Syrian leaders should meet, recalling the groundbreaking visit by Egypt's then-President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977, triggering a process that led to a peace treaty.

"If the Syrians really want peace, they must agree to a summit meeting between the Syrian president and the Israeli prime minister," Peres told visiting New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, according to a statement from Peres' office.

Olmert and Syrian President Bashir Assad are invited to a Mediterranean conference in France next month, but there have been no indications that they plan to meet.

Syria demands that Israel return the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured in the 1967 war. In the past, Israel has agreed in principle, but the two sides could not agree on a final border or terms of peaceful relations.

Israeli skeptics charge that the talks are designed to bolster the troubled regimes of the two countries rather than actually making peace.

Syria is trying to break out of the isolation that has resulted from its hosting extremist groups while allied with Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing the possibility of an indictment on corruption charges, and many in Israel are clamoring for him to step down and call an election.

Also, polls show that a significant majority of Israelis oppose giving up the Golan Heights.