Syria is interested in securing a peace agreement with Israel that would see a normalization of ties and end to the longstanding state of war between the two countries, Damascus' envoy to the U.S. has said.
"The negotiations are a historic opportunity for Israel to make peace, not just with Syria and Lebanon, but with the whole Arab world," Ambassador Imad Moustapha said, according to an interview broadcast on Army Radio on Monday.
Moustapha, an associate of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said that Israel must understand that such a peace can not be achieved unless it withdraws from the disputed Golan Heights, which it conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War.
"Israel must accept Syria's legitimate demand and understand that it will not achieve peace on the northern border as long as it is holding the Golan Heights," Moustapha was quoted as saying. "We offer the big thing ? let's sit together, make peace and finish once and for all this state of war. What could be better than that?"
Moustapha was speaking in an interview with the Pro-Israel Americans for Peace Now, a U.S.-affiliate of the Peace Now Movement.
The ambassador is not privy to the negotiations between Syria and Israel, but sources in Jerusalem said his closeness with Assad lends significance to his declarations.
In response to the statements, Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer called on Israel to complete negotiations with Syria while the current Knesset is still in office.
"The government of Israel has an obligation not to miss this chance for peace with Israel, and to present a full peace agreement to the public," Oppenheimer told Army Radio.
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