Fifty-one percent of Syrians said they would favor peace with Israel if it withdraws from the Golan Heights and recognizes Syrian sovereignty there, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Peace negotiations between Israel and Syrian broke down in 2000, without determining the fate of the Golan Heights which Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, and annexed in 1981.
The poll also revealed that three-fourths of Syrians support financial assistance for Iraqi fighters, the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as the militant group Hezbollah which Israel fought in Lebanon last summer.
The poll was sponsored by Terror Free Tomorrow, a bipartisan organization that seeks to erode support for international terrorism. Its advisory board includes Senator John McCain of Arizona, a Republican presidential candidate, and former House Speaker Thomas Foley, a Democrat from Washington state.
Earlier this month, the group released a survey of Iranians that found most favored their country developing nuclear weapons.
In the poll that dealt largely with U.S.-Syrian relations, most respondents said they favor working with the United States to seek an end to the Iraq war, yet also support financing Iraqi insurgents and other Middle East groups the U.S. considers terrorists.
The survey also found that an overwhelming number of Syrians consider trade and political relations with Western countries important, but they narrowly oppose closer ties with the U.S.
The United States has largely sought to isolate Syria, which it considers a major destabilizing influence in the Middle East
The U.S. has repeatedly accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq to join forces with al-Qaida and anti-U.S. insurgent groups, which Syria denies. Syria has also been accused of helping the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, Palestinian radicals and other militant groups.
In the poll, 63 percent of Syrians said they favor their country working with the U.S. to resolve the war in Iraq. By a slight 44 percent to 39 percent margin, most said they oppose fighters crossing from Syria into Iraq.
In addition, seven in 10 said Syria should refuse U.S. investments and trade to create more jobs in Syria, with similar numbers opposing U.S. investments in energy refineries and U.S. humanitarian aid.
Even though they do not support the U.S. - in fact that's an understatement, they're very negative about the U.S. - they still want to work with the U.S., said Ken Ballen, president of Terror Free Tomorrow. They still want the war resolved, and they're willing for their government to work with the U.S. to resolve it.
The telephone survey of 1,004 adult Syrians was conducted in Arabic for Terror Free Tomorrow by D3 Systems of Vienna, Virginia, from July 11 to 14. An estimated 75 percent to 80 percent of Syrian households have landline telephones.
The calls were made from a country near Syria that Terror Free Tomorrow did not identify, saying it wanted to protect the interviewers' confidentiality.
Telephone interviews were used to speed the research process and because in-person questioners in Syria may face harassment, the group said.
The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses reflected the actual number of Syrians living in rural areas, and those over age 55.
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