Israeli Officials: No Document of Understanding Reached With Syria

Israeli political sources denied reports yesterday that an Israeli-Syrian document of understanding, formulated by Dr. Alon Liel, former director general of the Foreign Ministry, and the Syrian-American Ibrahim Suleiman, was presented to persons in the office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Meanwhile, the editor of the Syrian daily Al-Thawra, Abd al-Fatah Awad, wrote yesterday that Syria is opposed to any secret negotiations with Israel.

"It is time they realized that Syria does not believe in games under the table," he wrote.

"Syrian peace will only occur under the sun... without secret negotiations," he added.

Awad reiterated Syria's demand that Israel should pull back to the June 4, 1967 lines.

"Peace is a cherished goal," he wrote, adding that "Israel is not ready for peace. It is playing for time."

Also yesterday, Israeli political sources confirmed that the diplomatic adviser to the prime minister, Shalom Turgeman, met four months ago with the head of the Middle East Department at the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Nicolas Lang. The Liel-Suleiman talks were held under the auspices of the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

However, the Israeli sources said that during the Turgeman-Lang meeting, a message from Swiss Foreign Minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, was delivered, which expressed interest in contributing to secure the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

The political sources said the talks with Syria were not raised during the meeting and no document of understandings was presented.

Political sources in Jerusalem have considered Calmy-Rey as being "hostile" toward Israel ever since she brought under her ministry's auspices the Israeli-Palestinian Geneva Initiative of Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO's Executive Committee.

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon refused to meet her during her visit to Jerusalem, and agreed to see her only after her efforts to gain international approval for Israel's Magen David Adom, the local equivalent of the Red Cross.