Peres speech at Oxford University disrupted by anti-Israel protesters
Peres, on trip to U.K., says Syria knows the benefits of a peace deal with Israel.
LONDON - President Shimon Peres, on the first day of a state visit to Britain on Tuesday, devoted part of his speech on the issues of peace and globalization at Oxford University to United States President-elect Barack Obama.
Peres' speech was then disrupted by anti-Israel protesters.
Zionism started because of anti-Semitism and racism, and the election of Obama to be president of the United States might just be the end of this racism, Peres said during his speech.
However, his speech was repeatedly interrupted by a group of students who vociferously protested Israel's policy in the territories. These students were silenced by a majority of the audience, while the president carried on with his speech.
Earlier, Peres said that Syria understands that it would benefit from the return of land in a peace deal with Israel, given that Israel had returned captured territory in peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.
"Egypt made peace with Israel, and so did Jordan and they got back all the territory. Syria knows that if it will make real peace and change its ways it will get the same," he said.
Israel seized control of the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War. It annexed the area in 1981, although the move has not been recognized by the international community. The possibility of the return of the territory as part of a peace deal with Syria has met fierce opposition in Israel.
The president warned earlier Tuesday that making Israel's readiness to make peace with Syria depends on whether Damascus is prepared to rein in the Iran-backed Hezbollah organization, which is based in Lebanon.
Speaking in a BBC radio interview, Peres said that Syria cannot expect Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights while Iran furthers its influence in Lebanon with the help of Syria.
"Israel is not prepared to tolerate an Iranian presence on its border," Peres said, in an apparent reference to Hezbollah.
"If Syria will understand that they can't have the Golan Heights and keep Lebanon as a base for the Iranians, then the decision will be clear," Peres added.
"But if she wants the Golan Heights back and keeps her bases in Lebanon - which are really controlled and financed by the Iranians - no Israeli will agree to have Iranians on our borders."
Syria has held indirect talks with Israel through Turkish mediation in recent months. Syrian officials have in the past rejected Israeli demands that Damascus drop its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and give up its alliance with Iran as part of a peace deal.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband visited Damascus on Tuesday, after completing a two-day visit to Israel.
Peres' visit to London was aimed at marking 60 years of Anglo-Israeli relations. During his time in Britain, the president is set to meet with Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
He will also deliver an address to both Houses of Parliament in London.
Peres is expected hold discussions with British leaders on economic cooperation, Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations and Iran's nuclear program.
On Thursday, Peres will visit Buckingham Palace and meet with the Queen, who will bestow upon him an honorary knighthood.
The president will also speak at Oxford University to kick off a series of lectures named after him.
Although Peres was warmly received in the U.K., his visit came at a time of relative tension between the two countries, following Britain's bid to require Israel to label all products made in the West Bank.