Israeli minister: Syria not ready for peace

Sunday, March 30, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

A senior Israeli cabinet minister told Ha'aretz on Sunday that recent messages to Syrian President Bashar Assad to assess his willingness to reach a compromise peace deal have all been returned with highly unsatisfactory responses.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had dispatched some 20 personal messages to Assad over the last year, most of them via the Turkish government.

The messages aimed to determine what the agenda of peace talks with Syria would include, and whether or not Assad would be willing to discuss his alliances with Iran, Hizballah and Palestinian terror groups.

While the Israeli minister would not reveal the content of the Syrian replies, he said that they made it clear a compromise peace deal with Damascus is impossible at this time.

So firm are Syria's current ties to Iran and Hizballah that Western envoys who carried some of Olmert's messages to Damascus were cited by Ha'aretz as expressing shock at finding photos of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah on the walls of Assad's office.

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