Netanyahu: Syria drops key precondition for peace talks with Israel
Premier: Damascus no longer demanding commitment to leave Golan before resumption of negotiations.
The Syrian government is no longer demanding an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the Golan Heights as a precondition for resuming peace negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Monday.
"When I met with [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy, he told me that the Syrians are ready to drop the precondition, but they do not want direct negotiations," the premier told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Rather, they want talks through mediation."
Netanyahu said that initially he conveyed a message to Damascus saying that Israel was willing to restart negotiations without any preconditions, but he received a response stressing that they will not retract their precondition of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights before hand.
Apparently during Netanyahu's trip to Paris in November, Sarkozy had told him that Syria was actually willing to retract all preconditions for talks, but it did adhere to its demand that a third-party mediator bridge the gaps between the two sides.
"I told him that I prefer direct negotiations, but if they want a mediator we want the French for the job," Netanyahu said.
He added that "Sarkozy said that he preferred that the Turkish mediated, and I told him that if there will be a mediator, they need to be fair."