Sarkozy to urge Assad to open direct talks with Israel | Israel Palestine-Gaza Conflict | Jerusalem Post

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Nov 13, 2009 6:10

Sarkozy to urge Assad today to open direct talks with Israel

By TOVAH LAZAROFF AND RON FRIEDMAN

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to urge his Syrian counterpart to open direct talks with Israel, when the two men meet in Paris on Friday.

Syria FranceSarkozy and Assad walk together at the end of the Damascus summit in September 2008.  Photo: AP

While the US has focused mostly on jump-starting the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, France has recently spent a lot of its energy on the Syrian track, which it believes is a critical key to Middle East peace.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Sarkozy during a meeting in the French capital that he would speak with Syrian President Bashar Assad “anytime, anywhere” and “without preconditions.”

A government source clarified that the prime minister would be willing to talk directly with Assad, something that has not happened since Ehud Barak was in the post 10 years ago.

Netanyahu himself has never spoken directly with Syria. Ehud Olmert held four rounds of indirect talks with the Syrians when he was prime minister, which were brokered by Turkey.

But the Turkish-Israeli relationship has recently become strained, opening the door to speculation that France could mediate any new talks. The Prime Minister's Office on Thursday declined to comment on the possibility.

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