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Breaking News: Haaretz Reports about Secret Negotiations Between Israel and Syria

Reported by Marie Therese - January 16, 2007 -

The Jewish newspaper Haaretz today reports that "in a series of secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006, Syrians and Israelis formulated understandings for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria." The last meeting occurred during Israel's invasion of Lebanon this past summer.

The main points of the understandings are as follows:

An agreement of principles will be signed between the two countries, and following the fulfillment of all commitments, a peace agreement will be signed.

As part of the agreement on principles, Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of 4 June, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remained open: Syria demanded the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked for the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years.

At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret, a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.

Israel will retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret.

The border area will be demilitarized along a 1:4 ratio (in terms of territory) in Israel's favor.

According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran. (Source: Haaretz, 1-16-07)

Click here for a timeline of the talks, which broke down when Israel refused a Syrian suggestion to include an American representative and take the talks from the unofficial level to "official but secret".

The contacts ended after the Syrians demanded an end to meetings on an unofficial level and called for a secret meeting at the level of deputy minister, on the Syrian side, with an Israeli official at the rank of a ministry's director general, including the participation of a senior American official. Israel did not agree to this Syrian request.

The Syrian representative in the talks, Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, an American citizen, had visited Jerusalem and delivered a message to senior officials at the Foreign Ministry regarding the Syrian wish for an agreement with Israel. The Syrians also asked for help in improving their relations with the United States, and particularly in lifting the American embargo on Syria.

For his part, the European mediator stressed that the Syrian leadership is concerned that the loss of petroleum revenues will lead to an economic crash in the country and could consequently undermine the stability of the Assad regime.

According to Geoffrey Aronson, an American from the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who was involved in the talks, an agreement under American auspices would call for Syria to ensure that Hezbollah would limit itself to being solely a political party. (Source: Haaretz, 1-16-07)

Oh my, oh my, oh my.

Why on earth would the Bush administration continue to demonize Syria when they knew that there was a possibility of a peace agreement? Frankly, this makes no sense at all.

What do you think?

Hat tip to our good friends at Buzzflash for the link to the story. If you don't know about their great site, check it out!