Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for January 16th, 2007

Did Israel Punt Peace With Syria Last Summer?

Posted by K.E. White on January 16, 2007

Last summer many of us watched the footage of the most recent military altercation between Lebanon and Israel.

Many have come to see Israel’s decision to escalate the conflict a strategic blunder. Some, considering the fight as a United States-Iran proxy, viewed the episode as another American failure in the Middle East.

Today’s Guardian offers another wrinkle to last summer’s dangerous diplomatic dance: reporting that Israel punted off unofficial peace talks with Syria:

Ha’aretz said the secret meetings were held in Europe and began in September 2004, initiated by the Syrians. The talks involved Alon Liel, a former director general of Israel’s foreign ministry, Geoffrey Aronson, from the Foundation for Middle East Peace, in Washington, and Ibrahim Suleiman, a Syrian businessman living in Washington who is from the same Alawite sect as the Syrian president, Bashar Assad. The group met at least seven times in a European capital, together with a European mediator and sometimes two other Israelis, the paper said…

Ha’aretz quoted the mediator as saying Syria was intent on reaching peace with Israel. “Farouk Shara told me radical Islam constitutes a threat to Syria and that peace is the only way to halt it,” the paper quoted him as saying.

A document was drawn up among the group, dated August 2005, and which covered security, water, borders and normalisation of ties. It said a demilitarised zone would be established on the Golan Heights, along with an early warning ground station on Mount Hermon to be operated by the US. Both sides would then have military zones on their side of the border. Syria would work towards a peaceful solution to problems with Palestinians and in Lebanon and Iran.

However the contacts ended last July, just after the start of the war between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Ha’aretz said the Syrians had asked for secret official meetings between the two sides and that Israel had refused. It appears the negotiations ended there.

Israel today denied knowledge of the meetings. “This is the first we have heard of the talks. We have never sanctioned anybody to speak to the Syrians and the prime minister first learned of these conversations through the newspaper report this morning,” said an Israeli spokeswoman, Miri Eisin. In Damascus a Syrian foreign ministry official described the newspaper report as “completely false.”

Posted in Diplomacy, Israel, Lebanon, Security Studies, Syria | Leave a Comment »