Israel moves aside Turkey to second place

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 19 / Trend , U. Sadigova/ 

Call by Israeli president to begin direct talks with Syria in an attempt to show the international community an interest in regional negotiations, but analysts do not rule out that Israel wants to replace Turkey's mediation with that of the United States.

"I don't think that Turkey can help in this stage, the mean key is in Washington," analyst on the Israeli-Syrian conflict Rami Ginat told Trend by telephone from London. "Any peace agreement in the region is realized by the U.S."

On May 18, Israeli President Shimon Peres called on Syria to begin direct talks at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, Al Jazeera website reported.

The statements by Perez came as a response to criticism of the Israeli government, which does not pay sufficient attention to the peace process with Damascus.  

Indirect Syrian-Israeli talks resumed in May last year being brokered by Turkey which maintains good ties with both countries. However, the dialogue failed after the Israeli military operation in Gaza in December and January.

Damascus demands that Israel to return the Golan Heights occupied in the war of 1967, but the Foreign Minister of Israel Avigdor Lieberman, who opposes the Arab-Israeli peace process, said that Israel will not return the Syrian territory as it will be a blow to Israel's security.

Syria supports the military and political ties with the leaders of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and the Lebanese party Hezbollah, strategic partner of Iran.

In a situation where both sides refuse to accept the terms of each other, observers doubt the reality of the peace process between Syria and Israel.

Negotiations have stopped, not having even started, because Israel has officially refused to return the Golan Heights, the head of the Jordanian Center for Middle Eastern Studies Mahmud Jawad al-Hamad told Trend

"Israel is not serious in the negotiations with Syria given that he will not leave the Golan," Al-Hamad said over telephone from Amman.

However, the termination of negotiations with Syria threatens Israel with the deterioration of relations with the European Union and the United States, which insisted on the continuation of the Middle East peace process, observers say.

Israel tries to demonstrate the EU and Syrians that it is serious about the peace talks so it has almost challenged Syrians to have direct talks, an analyst on Syrian policy Neil Quilliam said to Trend

"If Syria would agree to have direct talks it actually will mean that Israel will be in advantageous position," senior analyst on Middle East security and Policy at British Center of Control Risks told Trend over telephone from London.

Israel sees no need for Turkey's mediation in negotiations with Syria, because Turkey has been able only to make parties to sit at the table of talks, but Israel understands that the real pressure may be made only by the United States.

Joshua Landis, senior American expert on Syrian studies, says that Turkey has nothing to offer to solve the Israel-Syria conflict, because Damascus has already stated his main demand - to return the Golan.

"It does not matter whether Turkey is there [negotiations] or not, Syria and Israel has already talked what they want and can, without making a deal," director of the center for Middle East studies at University of Oklahoma Landis told Trend over telephone.

It is not ruled out that Israel wants to exclude Turkey from the negotiations because of the cooling of relations with Ankara after the military conflict in the Gaza Strip, an expert at Israeli Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies Ginat said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, criticized Israeli military operations in Gaza conducted against members of Hamas in December and January, which claimed the lives of more than 1,300 Palestinians.

Erdogan, calling the Israeli government "killers of children", urged to involve Palestinian movement Hamas to the peace process in the Middle East as an integral part of a future Palestinian state.

"So if in the past turkey was observed as available mediator, in this stage Israel is looking at turkey in a very special way," he said. "The level of trust has been damaged recently and I don't think it is going to change in the future."

Turkey and Israel are strategic allies in the region and jointly implement a series of major military projects. In 2005, they signed an agreement which enabled Turkey to acquire unmanned aerial vehicles worth $185 million to provide security at the Turkish borders.

But at this stage, the main levers of pressure are held by Washington, not Turkey, which is unable to play a major role in the negotiations between Syria and Israel, Ginat said.

Landis also did not rule out that Washington could use great diplomatic influence on Israel and the Economic Partnership as leverage to pressure Israel in negotiations with Syria, with which the U.S. has also been in warm relations.

In 2005, the United States withdrew its ambassador from Syria after Damascus was charged with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who spoke against Syrian influence in the country.

Washington also imposed a series of economic sanctions against Syria because of Damascus' support for the Iranian government calling to "wipe Israel off the face of the earth."

United States included Syria in a list of countries supporting international terrorism and accuses al-Assad regime of the transfer of weapons to the Lebanese political movement Hezbollah who pursues pro-Iran policy.

However, several delegations of American senators have visited Damascus since February in a bid to restore confidence in the relations between the two countries.

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