Shalom: talks to be considered seriously if Syria renounces terror

02/12/2003 By DPA and BPI Naples, Italy – Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on Tuesday described Syrian calls for renewed peace talks as „encouraging”, but said talk was „not enough”. Shalom was addressing reporters in the Italian city of Naples, where foreign ministers from the European Union and 12 Middle Eastern nations are holding two days of talks on boosting trade and political ties.

„To move towards peace, Syria must end the terrorism and violence that is coming from its territory,” Shalom said. Shalom, who had just held bilateral talks in Naples with his Jordanian counterpart, also asked Syria to „shutdown the training camps of extremists” and to „stop shipments going to (Lebanese organization) Hezbollah from Damascus”. „And if they are willing to resume negotiations with Israel without preconditions,” Shalom said, „we will of course consider it very seriously.” Shalom was responding to a New York Times interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad published on Monday. In the interview, Assad intimated that Israeli-Syrian negotiations should be renewed from where they broke off, in March 2000. The talks, which Assad said had been 80 per cent completed, centered around Israel’s return to Syria of the Golan Heights, captured in the 1967 war, in return for security guarantees. According reports from the previous rounds of negotiations, Israel agreed to withdraw from the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking much of northern Israel. The current Israeli government, however, refuses to withdraw from the Heights and accuses Damascus of supporting anti-Israel extremist organizations. Israeli officials in Jerusalem have reacted cautiously to Assad’s words, saying that while Israel is always prepared to hold a dialogue with its neighbors, the remarks were directed mainly at Washington. BPI.