Syria, Israel Deny Foreign Ministers Met at UN

The bureaus of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Syrian counterpart, Walid Moallem, denied reports that the two met at the United Nations yesterday.

This contradicts a report in the Nazareth-based newspaper Al-Sinara. According to the newspaper, Livni was invited to meet with Moallem by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The report, which quoted U.S.-based Arab diplomats, says the invitation surprised both ministers.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert authorized Livni to meet with Moallem, the newspaper reported. Also present were the ambassadors of Syria and Israel to the United Nations.

Al-Sinara reported that the meeting focused on the tensions between the two countries and on restoring calm.

Meanwhile, Livni is scheduled to meet officials including Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New York today.

Livni is scheduled to meet Abbas today to discuss preparations for the regional summit, which is scheduled for November in Washington. Her meeting with Rice will be part of a limited forum Rice is hosting for women world leaders attending the General Assembly.

The foreign minister met her Tunisian counterpart, Abdelwaheb Abdallah, on Wednesday. Livni invited the Tunisian minister to a meeting, even though the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.

The two discussed the talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Livni emphasized it is important that moderate Arab states support the process.

The meeting was part of Livni's effort to rally moderate Arab states to support the talks and encourage them to participate actively in direct negotiations with Israel and the Washington summit.