Syria's Envoy at Secret Talks to Speak Before Knesset Committee

Dr. Ibrahim Suleiman, the man who represented Syria during the secret unofficial discussions held under the auspices of the Swiss government, has agreed to appear before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Suleiman, an American of Syrian descent, informed his Israeli counterpart in the talks in Switzerland, Dr. Alon Liel, of his decision to appear before to the Knesset committee. Liel, in turn, told the Meretz faction chairman, MK Zahava Gal-On, who initiated the invitation.

Both the committee's chairman, MK Tzahi Hanegbi, and Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik agreed to the unusual decision of officially inviting a foreign national who has represented the positions of an Arab country that is still in a state of war with Israel.

In a telephone conversation with Haaretz from his home near Washington D.C., Suleiman said he will use his visit to Israel to hold a dialogue with the public to clarify that Syria is committed to peace, which it considers to be the key to regional stability, security and prosperity.

He added that he is "completely convinced that President Bashar Assad means every word when he calls on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to begin peace talks without preconditions."

Suleiman said it is possible that before his arrival in Israel he will carry out a short visit to Damascus to meet with the leadership there.

The 72-year-old has been a lecturer in the sciences at a number of American universities, and since the early 1990s he has dedicated most of his time to secret talks that would further peace between Israel and Syria.