Report: Netanyahu Ready to Discuss Golan Pullout

Netanyahu's bureau denies report on Al Arabiya claiming that Sarkozy will deliver PM's message to Syria.

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to deliver a message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Syrian President Bashar Assad that expresses Israel's willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal between the two countries, Arabic-language satellite TV channel Al Arabiya reported on Thursday.

Israel's readiness to engage in talks with its neighbor to the north is genuine, the Al Arabiya report cited Netanyahu's missive as saying, adding that Netanyahu has already agreed to a Golan withdrawal in principle, and that now was the time to discuss the details.

The Prime Minister's bureau on Thursday denied the report. However, a senior political source in Jerusalem on Thursday said that Netanyahu is considering French mediation for talks with Syria because of Sarkozy's close ties to both him and Assad.

Other sources said Thursday that both Israeli and U.S. officials would be prefer Netanyahu focus on the Palestinian track.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu said that Israel would be prepared to hold immediate peace negotiations with Syria, as long as the talks were held without preconditions.

Netanyahu made the remarks in response to a question from Sarkozy, with whom he met for more than an hour and a half in Paris on Wednesday. Their talks focused on reviving Middle East peace efforts and Iran's contentious nuclear program.

After the meeting, the two shook hands but did not speak to reporters.

In a joint statement, Netanyahu and Sarkozy said they agreed to employ all efforts toward immediately reviving the peace process. No agreement was reached on the issue of freezing construction in West Bank settlements, however, a demand which has topped the agenda for Palestinians and the United States.

Their statement also said they discussed international efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program in light of latest evolutions, referring to Iran's apparent rejection of an international proposal to send Iranian uranium abroad for enrichment.

Their meeting took place just days after Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington for low-profile talks.

Netanyahu's declaration regarding Syria came hours after Assad said he would not set any preconditions for peace negotiations with Israel.

"Resistance is the essence of our policy in the past and in future. We have no conditions to achieve peace but rather rights and we will not abandon them," Assad said in a speech opening the 5th Conference of the Arab Parties titled "The Independent Arab Decision."

Assad will also be in Paris later this week for talks with Sarkozy.



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