Assad says Syria-Israel talks depend on clear U.S. position
Syrian leader tells Lebanon daily that he is open to talks with Israeli government of any political persuasion.
A clear position by the United States on Israel-Syria peace negotiations is essential to progress in the talks, Syrian President Bashar Assad told a Lebanese daily in an interview published Wednesday.
In light of the absence of such a position, Assad told as-Safir, significant progress was unlikely in the near future.
"We don't expect much, at least in the foreseeable future, within this framework," Assad said. "Especially since [U.S. President Barack Obama] has announced clear positions on Iraq and Afghanistan, but we haven't heard an American position yet on the peace process."
The Syrian leader also reiterated his assertion that Damascus would engage in peace talks with any Israeli government, whatever its political orientation.
"The government in Israel is a government, not left or right," he said.
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, sent a message to Syria before last month's election promising that a government under him would "not provoke war" and would be interested in "seriously and genuinely exploring" a peace process.
In January, officials from Netanyahu's Likud party met with senior Syrian figures in Washington to prepare the ground for further exchanges after Israel's next government takes office, Likud sources said.
The officials, however, did not express any willingness to make concessions or withdraw from the Golan Heights, as Assad says is necessary.