Assad: Mideast peace 'impossible' with Netanyahu
Syrian president blames building of new settlements as reason for stalling peace talks, AFP reports.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday that peace with Israel was "impossible" as the government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not a real partner for talks, French news agency AFP reported.
"The establishment of peace in the Middle East is impossible because of the absence of an Israeli partner," Assad told reporters in Damascus.
Israel and Syria conducted indirect peace negotiations through Turkish mediators last year, with Syria suspending those talks as a reaction of Israel's war in Gaza in December 2008.
Assad also called the recent Israeli approval of a plan to build 1,600 new East Jerusalem housing units a "real obstacle," which would create "more wars and tension" in the entire region.
The Syrian president told AFP that his country was genuinely interested in establishing comprehensive peace with Israel "through Turkish-sponsored indirect negotiations," but the current political climate in the region would not enable such ties, AFP reported.
He added that the Israeli government "cannot be considered a partner as long as it responds to calls for peace with settlements and the Judaization of (Muslim) holy sites."
Syria is demanding that Israel agree to return the entire Golan Heights, territory captured in the 1967 Six Day War, in any peace deal.
Since the establishment of Netanyahu's government in March last year, the Syrian president has iterated his concern regarding the lack of an Israeli partner for peace.
Last month, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that the stalled peace process with Syria could augur ill for the future of the Middle East.
"In the absence of an arrangement with Syria, we are liable to enter a belligerent clash with it that could reach the point of an all-out, regional war," Barak told senior Israel Defense Forces officers.
Barak said Israel's response to the Goldstone Report, which it submitted to the United Nations, was "very important."