Israel and Syria Talking Through Turkey

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Is Ehud Olmert getting ready to hand over the Golan Heights to Syria? Israel says it is holding peace talks with Syria.

JERUSALEM - Israel and Syria on Wednesday said they were holding indirect peace talks through Turkish mediators — the first official confirmation of contacts between the longtime enemies.

In statements issued minutes apart, the two governments said they “have declared their intent to conduct these talks in good faith and with an open mind,” with a goal of reaching “a comprehensive peace.”

Both nations thanked Turkey for its help, and Turkey issued its own confirmation. Muslim Turkey has good ties with both Israel and Syria. …

Peace with Syria would require Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed. Today, the heights are home to 18,000 Israelis and roughly the same number of Druse Arabs who regard themselves as Syrian nationals. Syrian and Israeli forces are separated by U.N. peacekeepers.

A committee representing Israeli settlers on the Golan said Olmert’s move “put the State of Israel’s survival at risk.”

“The people of Israel will not support such a deluded and irresponsible move, which would hand over such a vital Israeli strategic asset to the Arab axis of evil,” the Golan Residents Council said.

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