Syria's Assad Says Still Interested in Turkish-brokered Talks With Israel

In Turkey, Syrian president says Israel objects to Turkish mediation in peace talks as it doesn't want peace.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Saturday that his country was interested in peace with Israel - but that there was no Israeli partner capable of striking a deal.

Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul in Istanbul on Saturday, May

"At this moment there is no Israeli partner for negotiations that could lead to a peace  based on international principles," Assad said during a state visit to Turkey.

During a joint press conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul, the Syrian president said his country would insist onTurkish mediation in any future peace negotiations with Israel.

Israel continued to reject Turkey as an arbitrator because  it was "unused to fair and neutral mediation",  Assad said.

He added that Israel would not agree to Turkish mediation for fear talks would lead to a real peace treaty, which "Israel has no intention of making".

Assad called on  the international community to intervene to prevent Israeli construction in East Jerusalem.

"The international community cannot limit itself to condemnation alone," he said.

The Syrian leader's comments follow remarks on Tuesday by the Israeli army's head of intelligence research, who told the Knesset that despite its strong backing for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, Damascus was genuinely interested in peace with Israel.

"A political settlement with Israel is high on Syria's list of priorities and intelligence shows a will to reach an agreement – but on their terms, meaning a return of the Golan Heights and American involvement," Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz told Israeli lawmakers.
Baidatz said Assad was willing to embrace sweeping changes – but did not trust the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Military intelligence believes Syria could radically alter its role – but Assad feels that political progress with the current Israel government is impossible and has therefore avoided confidence-building measures."