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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sarkozy was planning on a Assad-Netanyahu meeting...


"...'t was tried before ... in Paris..."
Zaman, here
"It has emerged that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had planned to bring together the leaders of Israel and Syria in Paris in an attempt to revive a peace process between the two countries which collapsed early this year, but his efforts failed when Syrian President Bashar Assad, who insists on Turkish mediation to return to peace talks with Israel, opposed the idea.

The last direct talks stalled in 2000 in a dispute over how much of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 war, should be returned to Syria. Peace efforts restarted in 2007 under Turkish auspices, and Turkey facilitated several rounds of indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel. Yet, soon after the start of the Gaza offensive, Syria said it had suspended talks with Israel, and then-Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said it was not possible to continue with peace efforts on the Israeli-Syrian track while war raged on along the Israeli-Palestinian track.

The Syrian president was in Paris on Friday, two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the city and said he was ready to meet the Syrian president anywhere, at any time, without pre-established conditions, to re-launch talks over the Israeli-Syrian dimension of the broader Mideast peace process.

Sarkozy, who apparently wanted to steal the show in the Middle East process, tried to arrange the two leaders’ visits to Paris at the same time. This way, even if he could not succeed in gathering Assad and Netanyahu together, he would be able to introduce their simultaneous presence in Paris as “France’s great role in peace efforts.” However, Assad said he would not land in Paris until Netanyahu’s plane departed the city, spoiling Sarkozy’s plans.

Moreover, following talks with Sarkozy, Assad highlighted on Friday the importance he attaches to Turkey’s role in any new negotiation process with Israel -- an emphasis which pleased Ankara. “If Mr. Netanyahu is serious, he can send his teams of experts, we will send our teams of experts to Turkey. They can then talk, if they are really interested in peace,” Assad said following talks with the French leader. In an interview broadcast on Friday evening, Assad said France “should support the role of the Turkish mediator and persuade Israel to return to the negotiating table with the Turkish mediator,”

Netanyahu, meanwhile, said on Sunday Turkey would not be an “honest broker” in any renewed peace talks with Syria. He said he preferred direct talks, but “if a mediator is involved, he should be impartial. The Turkish prime minister has not reinforced his image as an objective, unbiased mediator,” he was quoted as saying..."

Posted by G, Z, or B at 6:55 PM

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