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‘Syria ready to seize chance to make peace with Israel’


New Delhi : Syria, which last month announced resuming indirect contacts with Israel, has said it is ready to “seize any opportunity to make peace” but is not willing to give up an “inch of territory”.

Syria had “always pursued just and comprehensive peace on the basis of the Madrid (conference in 1991) terms of reference and on basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions”, visiting Syrian Minister for Expatriates Bouthaina Shaaban told reporters here Monday, a day before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad comes to India for a five-day visit.

Both Israel and Syria have restarted indirect contacts through the Turkish government after a gap of eight years.

Their last round of talks had broken down in 2000 with the two sides unable to agree on the status of Golan Heights – the piece of land that Israel had seized from Syria during the 1967 war.

The Syrian minister pointed out that before the talks collapsed, her country had been in negotiations for over 10 years and a “huge amount of work had been completed”.

“What is the motive of Israel (to start the talks)… very difficult to say,” said Shaaban, but asserted that Syria “believes in peace”.

“We want peace to be achieved through negotiations. We take every opportunity in order to endeavour to make peace,” she said.

Expressing wariness about Israeli motives, she said: “Judging by what happened in the past, Israelis speak one language and do something different on the ground.”

While Syria was ready to “seize any opportunity with the possibility of making peace”, Shabaan clarified that while they knew the cost of war, they will “certainly not give up an inch of territory”.

She noted that Syria would “love to liberate Golan Heights through negotiations, but if the other side was truly intending to do that or not, we will find out in the future”.