Saturday, April 14, 2007
Damascus denies secret Israel peace talks
"DAMASCUS (AFP) - Syria on Saturday rejected statements by a Syrian-American businessman who said that he had been at the heart of unofficial peace talks with Israel, the official SANA agency quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.
"The statements and the ideas of the American-Syrian Ibrahim Suleiman do not reflect the point of view of Syria, which has repeated many times its refusal to undertake secret negotiations" with Israel, the official was quoted as saying.
Suleiman on Thursday told a top Israeli parliamentary panel that Syria and Israel could clinch a peace deal in six months.......
Suleiman and former Israeli foreign ministry director general Alon Liel say they headed two years of the secret talks during which understandings were reached for a peace treaty between Syria and Israel.
Suleiman, 60, was at the centre of the official peace talks between Israel and Syria which began following the Madrid peace summit, including the 1996 US-sponsored talks at Wye Plantation and later in 2000 in Shepherdstown.
During those talks, Suleiman said on Thursday, "the sides solved 80 percent of disagreements."
He said that he and Liel had succeeded in further narrowing the gap between the sides, and that their talks should be replaced by official negotiations.
"Our work is done, now it's up to officials in Israel and Syria to sit down and iron out their differences," the US businessman said. "We gave them a peace map."
Syria's "President Bashar al-Assad wants peace with Israel. He wants to make peace and be known as the man of peace," Suleiman said."