"24/04/2008 Syrian President Bashar Assad told Qatari newspaper al-Watan that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has expressed willingness to cede the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria.
In the interview published Thursday, Assad said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, who's mediating between Israel and Syria, has informed him of "Israel's willingness to pull out from the Golan in exchange for peace with Syria."
The Syrian president also elaborated on the negotiations with Israel brokered by Turkey. "The attempts to mediate between Damascus and Tel Aviv have increased since the aggression against Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and after the triumph of the resistance. "However, Turkey became involved about a year ago, in April 2007. This involvement yielded positive results, and Olmert stressed to the Turkish prime minister his willingness to return the Golan." According to Assad, Erdogan conveyed to him the Israeli message about a week ago.
The Jerusalem Post quoted western diplomatic officials as saying that Israel made clear that any peace agreement would necessitate Syria ending its support for Hamas and throwing Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal out of Damascus; ceasing support for Hezbollah; and distancing itself from Iran.
"We want peace with the Syrians, and they know what we expect from them," Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev
"Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions; on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights in full to Syria," Syrian Expatriates Minister Buthaina Shaaban told Al-Jazeera television.
In an interview to Yediot Aharonot over the weekend, Olmert was asked whether he was willing to stand by the "deposit" given by former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak to Assad's father, Hafez Assad, that Israel would eventually withdraw from the Golan in return for peace. "What I can say is that I'm very interested in peace with the Syrians, I'm working on it, and I hope my efforts will ripen into significant progress. I promise that in issues between us and Syria, they know what I want from them, and I know well what they want from us," Olmert said. "