U.S. praises Turkey's role in Syria-Israeli talks
The United States on Wednesday praised Turkey's role in mediating indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel and said it had been informed of the discussions but was not involved, reported Reuters.
"I think Turkey played a good and useful role in this regard," senior State Department official David Welch said of the talks.
"Israel and Turkey have apprised us in the past of these discussions and kept us informed," said Welch, the chief U.S. negotiator in talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The White House also said it did not object to the talks and confirmed the United States was not participating in the discussions.
"We hope that this is a forum to address various concerns we all have with Syria -- Syria's support of terrorism, repression of its own people, and so we will see how this progresses," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Israel and Syria said they had launched indirect peace talks mediated by Turkish officials in Istanbul, the first confirmation of negotiations between the long-time enemies in eight years.
The United States is mediating Palestinian statehood negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with the hope of getting a deal by the time President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009.
"President Bush, during his recent trip to the region, declared that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians offer special promise and we are working to conclude an agreement by the end of the year on this," Welch said.
Israel and Syria last held peace talks in 2000 in the United States, but they collapsed after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on the fate of the Golan Heights, Syrian territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
"We think the expansion of the circle of peace would be a good thing and of course it would be very, very helpful if that included an agreement with Syria," Welch said.
Asked whether the United States had helped facilitate the talks, Welch said Turkey had taken the lead.
"We have not done that. ... Turkey has played a good role, we were kept informed and that is where it is."