Syria Diplomat: No Preconditions to Negotiations With Israel

Top Syrian official to Madrid summit slams MK Paz-Pines criticism of Damascus ties with Hamas, Iran.

Damascus will not accept any preconditions over entering negotiations with Israel, Syrian delegation head to a Middle-East conference in Madrid, Riad Daoudi, said on Friday.

Daoudi, the top legal adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad and to the Foreign Ministry in Damascus, responded to MK Ophir Paz-Pines' (Labor) criticism of Syria's support of Palestinian Islamic group Hamas and close ties with Iran.

He said that those issues could be discussed in the future as part of possible talks, but that in any case Hamas and Iran play a significant role in the area and cannot be ignored

The second Madrid conference, which commemorates the 15-year anniversary of the historic 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, began Thursday morning. The participation of Israeli and Syrian representatives at a dinner Wednesday to inaugurate the conference marked the first time in seven years that officials from the two countries sat together at the same table.

On Thursday, Daoudi said that the lack of peace has an adverse effect on Middle East stability. He said that now was the time to set in motion fresh negotiations, something he said was a matter of urgency for Syria and for the entire region.

Daoudi is accompanied by Damascus' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Bushra Kanafani. The Israeli delegation is comprised of Knesset members and former ministers.

He said that Israel's intentions were unclear and blamed it for the failure of bilateral peace talks, particularly in 1996, when Shimon Peres was prime minister, and in 2000, when Ehud Barak led the government, and for the subsequent refusals to renew talks.

Daoudi also accused the U.S. of taking peace off its agenda in favor of force, which he said went against the interests of the regional states.

He called on Europe to take a more active role in renewing talks, and to take an official role in the Madrid conference in order to revive negotiations through all channels.