France could mediate Syria talks - Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday in the government's weekly cabinet meeting that Israel is ready to renew peace negotiations with Syria. However, he expressed opposition to Turkey acting as a mediator in those talks, saying he preferred France, a "fair and objective" mediator, dpa reported.
"Israel is prepared to hold negotiations without precondition with the Syrians", said Netanyahu in the meeting.
"Speaking with Syria is very important strategically. We must make progress," Defence Minister Ehud Barak added.
After talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy last Friday in Paris, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad urged Israel to send negotiators to Turkey. But Netanyahu expressed doubts about the intervention of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey has not strengthened its "image as an objective, fair mediator," Netanyahu said.
Assad has supported mediation by Sarkozy "to persuade Israel to return to the negotiating table with the Turkish mediator."
Turkish-mediated talks between Israel and Syria came to a halt after Israel's offensive in the Strip Gaza in December and January. Tensions between Turkey and Israel heightened after Erdogan denounced Israeli army actions in the Strip.