Netanyahu Would Meet Assad 'Any Time, Any Place'

Statement by PM's Bureau comes in response to Haaretz report that Syria is prepared to make 'gradual peace.'

The Prime Minister's Bureau said Wednesday that Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to meet with the Syrians immediately and without preconditions. In the unusual statement, made to the widely distributed London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, the bureau also said the prime minister was willing to go to Damascus to bring about a renewal in talks.

The statement comes in response to a recent Haaretz report that Syria was prepared to make "gradual peace." Arab sources told the London paper that the report in Haaretz correspond with the position held by Syria since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.

According to the bureau's statement, "Netanyahu is prepared to immediately set out for Damascus to meet with President Assad, or to invite him to Jerusalem, or to meet with him in a third country."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu quickly announced that Turkey was prepared to start mediating if both parties agreed.

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Wednesday at the Arab League summit that, at the beginning of last year, Syria had viewed the Obama administration as providing a window of opportunity for real peace to develop, but that "efforts have not borne fruit due to declared Israeli policy of continued occupation and burying the Palestinian case."

Moallem also said that continued Judaization of Jerusalem and Israel's declaration of the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb as Jewish heritage sites proves Israel's refusal to make peace. He called on the Arab countries to take "a clear, united and uncompromising stand that would lead the international community and countries working for peace to oblige Israel to abandon this policy."