Damascus-Jerusalem Peace Process Possible Only if Golan Heights Returned – Experts

Azerbaijan, Baku, 12 June / Trend corr E. Tariverdiyeva, R. Hafizoglu, U. Sadikhova/ Peace process between Damascus and Jerusalem may be possible only in case the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel, are returned to Syria.

"First of all, occupied Palestinian and Lebanese lands, as well as the Golan Heights, must be liberated. Peace process will have effect only if Israel liberates all lands occupied by 1967," independent Syrian political scientist Akram Huzam said.

"Syria refused to restore direct negotiations with Israel, until Jerusalem promises to leave the Golan Heights," Cursor news agency reported.

The foreign minister of Syria Valid Muallem said in his interview with Al-Hayar newspaper in mid-May: "We will prevent anything which will make Syria to do something, even a step in advance without the full withdrawal (of Israel) from the Golan Heights. It is not just necessary terms, it our right"

The Syrian political expert Huzam believes that the peace talks between Damascus and Israel do not depend on Ehud Olmert. "Many oppositional forces and parties of Israel do not want peace talks with Syria to be restored," Huza said to Trend over a telephone from Lebanon on 12 June.

According to expert, Israel should fulfil all requirements of the international conventions for the sake of peace in the region.

According to the Syrian political expert Husni Makhali, Israel do not want peace with Syria and it is doing its best so that the talks will not take place. "Unlike Syria, Israel has never trusted these talks. The supporters of Israel in the United States, led by the President Bush, refused all attempts of Ankara to mediate between the conflicting parties," Makhali said to Trend on a telephone. 

According to the political expert, the Golan Heights should be returned to its true historical owner in order to restore peace talks.

According to Makhali, the statement of Israel which says that Syria does not wish peace talks is not true. "The main reason of Jerusalem's reluctance to hold talks is the political instability in Israel," Syrian expert said.

American expert Paul Sullivan thinks the chances for peace between Israel and Syria without the return of the Golan is zero. "Israeli views and policies toward Syria may change after Mr. Olmert leaves, but those changes will be determined by who takes over after him. My guess is that a hardliner has a very good chance of taking his place. If that happens we may be back to step 1. Also important in all of this are the efforts of the Turkish government, especially those from the AKP, who have done a lot to move the peace process forward - but in quiet and effective ways. It may be very important for Israeli-Syrian relations what happens in Turkish politics," Sullivan, a professor of the Georgetown University, wrote to Trend via e-mail on 12 June.

Jihad Saadi, a Kuwaiti political scientist believes that the peace agreement between Israel and Syria will not be signed unless the Golan Heights are returned. "Besides territorial pretends, Syria has a range of other demands, which Israel is not ready to implement," Saadi told Trend via a telephone on 12 June.   

The American Administration has stated that the interference by Syria into Lithuania, in its turn, hinders the negotiations.

"The problem to sign a peace negotiation between the sides depends on the opposition parties of Israel, which absolutely reject the idea of returning back the Golan Heights to Syria, rather than from the Israeli prime Minister," Saadi said.

According to the political scientist, the Israeli government submits these issues for consideration more likely to raise the political influence of Ehud Olmert rather than to reach a peace settlement of the problem. 

No concrete negotiations between Syria and Israel still have been reached. Expert considers that all the measures taken by Israel are just a democratic popularization.

Previously, Syrian President Bashar Asad stated that Damask was ready to launch peace negotiations with Israel during his meeting with the then Turkish President Ahmad Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Erdogan. Israel did not agree to launch the peace negotiations with Syria at that time.

Israel occupied Syria's the Golan Heights during Arab-Israeli war in 1967, and annexed the territory in 1981.

The correspondent can be contacted at [email protected]

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