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  • Israel and Syria admit the start of formal peace talks

    by Leon
    21st May, 2008 at 10:00 pm    

    Well, well…

    Israel and Syria announced today they have begun indirect talks to reach a “comprehensive peace” in the first formal negotiations between the two mutual enemies for eight years.

    Israeli and Syrian officials have been in Istanbul since Monday, holding meetings with Turkish officials who have shuttled between both sides. Officials said the process began after the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, visited Turkey in February.

    “The two sides stated their intention to conduct these talks in good faith and with an open mind,” said Olmert’s office. “They decided to pursue the dialogue between them in a serious and continuous way, in order to achieve the goal of comprehensive peace in accordance with the Madrid Conference terms of reference for peace.”

    It is not clear how much has been agreed, but Israel has said it wants Syria to cut ties to Islamist groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas, while Syria wants the return of sovereignty over the Golan Heights, °©captured by Israel during the 1967 war.

    Hope for the Middle East yet?

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    Filed in: Middle East

    20 Comments below   |  

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    1. Bhargavi — on 21st May, 2008 at 11:41 pm  

      well well indeed. after the bush and mccain posturing of the past week … it seems that even israel is willing to sit down with its enemies …. lets hope this is all a sign of winds changing …

    2. Nav — on 21st May, 2008 at 11:51 pm  

      Well Syria still refuse to back down in Lebanon and stir internal strife from Damascus so I wouldn’t get my hopes us about anything they say.

    3. Sid — on 22nd May, 2008 at 12:36 am  

      Hope for the Middle East yet?

      I won’t be holding my breath.

    4. Sunny — on 22nd May, 2008 at 12:57 am  

      A step forward…. a long overdue step of course. Next, they need to talk to Hamas. No doubt about it.

    5. Avi Cohen — on 22nd May, 2008 at 3:50 am  

      Why such a suprise - they have been close to a deal before and I’d say that following those negotiations there is little work left to be done.

      Again it highlights what I’ve said in the past namely that Israel only ever makes progress with its issues when the USA isn’t actively involved.

      The only problem I foresee is that the USA willl derail this to suit its own agendas.

      This is the quietest border for Israel and Syria and I see this as an easy deal to make.

      Sadly the right whinge in Israel has made such a deal difficult to be ratified by parliament.

      Israel needs to give back the Golan and bring peace to its North.

      This is an easy deal as Israel would give back land and Syria would agree to dimilitarise the Golan. Some sort of agreement on watre sharing and diplomatic ties and a deal is close.

      Israel would then need Syria to stop support in Lebanon but they wouldn’t need to do this as they’d be at peace. Israel would get economic benefit from not having to spend so much on this region and Syria would get its land back but also possibly open up trade doors in Israel, Europe and longer term the USA.

      Olmert and Assad would both have delivered peace.

      I hope this happens as it may then kick start the final process with the Palestinians.

      To a degree I feel Israel is being driven by the USA in who it can talk to and as it is election year in the USA there is much grandstanding and Israel is caught in the middle with limited wriggle room.

      For the Israelis Obama is the best possible path to peace and regional acceptance. Why - well he’s the only hope that they’d have room to negotiate.

      BTW For those of you who think that even with Lebanon and Iran peace isn’t possible you’ll be suprosed as I can see those groups and nations coming into line due to interests.

    6. marvin — on 22nd May, 2008 at 1:17 pm  

      What could Israel possibly gain from talking to the islamic extremist group Hamas who want Israel destroyed, want an Islamic nation on all of historic palestine, and kill ‘moderate’ Fatah members?

      Syria - there’s stuff that can be negotiated.

      Perhaps the West should negotiate with Al-Qeada?

    7. Nav — on 22nd May, 2008 at 1:26 pm  

      Avi Cohen:

      Again it highlights what I’ve said in the past namely that Israel only ever makes progress with its issues when the USA isn’t actively involved.

      And what of Bill Clinton’s pivotal role in the brokering of the Oslo Accords?

      I’d say that the United States have gone much further in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East (Iraq notwithstanding) with regards to the Israeli/Palestine conflict than the neighbouring Arabs have what with their penchant for supporting Islamic extremism and all…

    8. Avi Cohen — on 22nd May, 2008 at 1:29 pm  

      What Israel could gain by talking to Hamas is bringing stability to the region. You’ll find Hamas’s positions on Israel are mere posturing. When asked to prove they can govern the area and with aid and prosperity at risk they’ll change their tune.

      It is sheer stupidity to claim that organisations can’t be talked with. In Northern Ireland Sinn Fein were of a similar position but when it came time to govern things changed.

      Don’t forget that Israel itself was founded by similar groups with similar ambitions, lets be honest. But when in power those organisations moderated their position and aims.

      Hell there are peope in the Knesset who have the same aim and who occassionally sit in Government!

      A few years ago the PLO was deemed as such and they are now negotiating.

      Al-Q is a different situation.

      The I/P is a land dispute essentially.

      Al-Q and the West is an ideological dispute.

    9. Avi Cohen — on 22nd May, 2008 at 1:34 pm  

      If Bill Clinton brokered the Oslo Accords why the hell were they brokered in err Oslo!

      The Oslo Negotiations were started in late 1992 and Israel didn’t tell the USA until late summer 1993, at which point the USA wasshocked. So much for your claim they helped broker them.

      In fact both sidfes signed the basis of the agreement before telling the USA, the talks were brokered by Norway.

      The Americans were suprised by the negotiations and basically took a lot of credit for stuff that Norway did.

      So my statement that they only make progress when the Americans aren’t there is true.

    10. Nav — on 22nd May, 2008 at 1:43 pm  


      If Bill Clinton brokered the Oslo Accords why the hell were they brokered in err Oslo

      Read what I wrote again- carefully this time- and you’ll notice I never said that Clinton brokered the Oslo Accords but that he played a pivotal role in having both Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat come to an eventual agreement by encouraging negotiations.

      In fact both sidfes signed the basis of the agreement before telling the USA, the talks were brokered by Norway.

      In fact, both sides were still to-ing and fro-ing on some aspects of the agreement even after the United States were notified but I never disputed that…

    11. Avi Cohen — on 22nd May, 2008 at 1:49 pm  

      BTW Clinton was viewed as so Pro-Israeli at a time when he was supposed to be neutral, and this is a complaint made by the Israeli negotiating team who said he was acting as Israel’s lawyer, somethign they didn’t need.

      They needed a negotiator to bridge the gaps. The reason the talks failed was due to Clinton refusing the be objective and neutral.

      Try reading what the Israeli negotiators said about Clinton and his team and you’ll see that they felt they could get a deal but Clinton let the parties down and then blamed Arafat. Clinton was supposed to bridge the proposals but in cases was givign the Palestinians Israel’s positions as his bridge!

      So again I say to you that Israel only ever makes progress when the Americans are not involved. This is proven by complaints of people involved in the negotiations.

    12. Nav — on 22nd May, 2008 at 1:58 pm  


      I’ve not (yet) been privvy to what the Israelis had to say about Clinton’s involvement but I’ll make sure to check that out…

    13. Avi Cohen — on 22nd May, 2008 at 2:00 pm  

      Clinton didn’t do anything for the talks and this is summarised by the fact that once when Arafat walked out due to the bias of Clinton’s team, Albright had the gates locked to prevent him leaving.

      The reason Oslo failed is due to American neglect and incompetance in implementing agreements and moving the sides forward. They simply drove hope out of the parties and region and then washed their hands.

      If Clinton is as you describe then why the hell are the Israeli Negotiators complaining that he was too pro-Israel and that wasn’t what was needed.

      Clinton and Bush destroyed the hopes of the peoples in that area with their rank stupidity in not banging heads together to conclude an agreements. For that they should be despised for the suffering they inflicted and not praised.

      What did Clinton achieve? Nothing major.

      Bush didn’t even try and just makes stupid statements.

      Look Israel knows it has to make major concessions and is willing to. The last thing both sides need is the USA telling Israel it doesn’t have to, then all you get is what you have now.

      Both sides are trying to see what the other will give and the bloody negotiator needs to bridge that, by failing to do that role the bloody negotiator isn’t just holding them up.

      The Palestinians don’t expect to return refugees to Israel but it is a negotiating position to give up for say land swap. But if the bloody Americans just dismiss that then how do the sides negotiate?

      Israel will give up settlements for say the Palestinians to give up right of return. But if the bloody Americans say the Palestinians have no rigth of return and Israel can hold major settlements then what is being negotiated? Then you get positions stuck and nothign moves forward and America sells everyone more weapons to bloody kill each other. Hell brilliant brokerage!

    14. Avi Cohen — on 22nd May, 2008 at 2:01 pm  

      Nav - Suggest you look in the Hareetz Achives and some of the interviews are there.

      One negotiator wrote a quite excellent piece in the Guardian criticising the role of the USA.

      Hence the sides do better without the Americans than with.

    15. Avi Cohen — on 22nd May, 2008 at 2:05 pm  

      Plus don’t forget the bloody Bush Administration doesn’t want Israel negotiating with Syria to bring about peace which is why other countries are trying to bring them together.

      How do you expect to achieve peace and reduce extremism when you won’t get the parties talking?

      Oh yes by selling weapons to everyone to kill each other.

      Great logic.

    16. Morgoth — on 22nd May, 2008 at 2:18 pm  

      The I/P is a land dispute essentially.

      Tell that to the Hamas Charter, or to Hamas TV, or even Hamas itself.

    17. Morgoth — on 22nd May, 2008 at 3:03 pm  

      Furthermore, “Avi Cohen”, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a bigshot in Hamas has said:

      “Now more than ever I tell you – we will never recognize Israel… We will form the Palestinian state on all of Palestine’s territories and the sun of liberty will burn the Zionists. To them I say – you will lose. You will leave and we will keep hounding you. The blood of our slain sons will haunt you forever.” [My italics.]

      As Gene over at Harry’s Place said:

      “So according to al-Zahar, it’s not enough for Jews to abandon their homes in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba. No matter where they go, Hamas will still hound them. So the problem isn’t just the existence of the Jews in Palestine but, um, the existence of the Jews.”

      Land-conflict my arse. This is all about so-called “Palestinians” wanting a new Holocaust, to finish what Hitler couldn’t.

    18. The Common Humanist — on 22nd May, 2008 at 3:55 pm  

      “Look Israel knows it has to make major concessions and is willing to”

      Like still building on the West Bank. A land grab is a land grab is a land grab. Israel is being eaten alive

      And Hamas…pah. Bunch of jew-hating Islamist nutjobs. Tossers.

      It is a crying shame that if the Palestinian ‘Leadership’ (I use the term loosely) had chosen to accept the UN land arrangement in 1948 the Palestinian Republic would be 60 itself today and probably have one of the highest socio-economic indexes in the ME.

    19. Avi Cohen — on 22nd May, 2008 at 4:31 pm  

      Morgoth - Try actually looking at the reality of what happens when such organisations have to govern and be accountable to the wider world. They moderate previous extreme positions.

      All sides in the I/P dispute have at one time or other had extreme position and then moderated this when they had to govern in an international postion.

      Hamas is posturing and has also on occassion said it will recognise Israel so what about those statements.

      Its called posturing and that is what they are doing.

      It is people like you who are holding up agreements.

      If Hamas won’t recognise Israel then why the hell is it negotiating indirectly and directly with someone they claim they can destroy?!!

      Why does Hamas need to negotiate in such circumstances?

      Harry’s Place is hardly the best reference to impartially discuss I/P and reference to that bunch is hardly conducive to proper debate on this subject. Harry’s Place is a joke of a site who will never understand the reality of what is needed to come to an agreement.

      As I said to you the PLO itself said it would destroy Israel and is now a partner. Such statements are simply statements of posture.

      The moment you invite Hamas to peace talks then rhetoric will start to tone down and then as they progress they will disappear.

      As I said the spiritual head of Hamas and the now President of Israel talked on the phone! So much for destroying them he said here have my personnal phone number and call me when you need to - and Peres did in front of a journalist.

    20. Avi Cohen — on 23rd May, 2008 at 2:04 am  

      TCH - ““Look Israel knows it has to make major concessions and is willing to”

      Like still building on the West Bank. A land grab is a land grab is a land grab. Israel is being eaten alive”

      Well we are about to find out if both sides are sincere and if Israel will make a concession of land.

      If they don’t then Israel isn’t interested in peace and your statement is correct.

      Equally Syria must reenter the international fold and to do that it must sever ties with certain groups. If they don’t then they are not interested in peace.

      Realistically this is probably the last chance for both to make peace.

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