Syria's Assad blames Israel for deadlocked peace talks

DAMASCUS - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday accused Israel for logjamming peace talks and called for renewed Turkish mediation between his country and Israel.
"Israel is the main cause for the deadlock in peace. The Israelis want negotiations devoid of principles, that is to say endless talks," he said at a joint press conference with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
He said Turkish mediation between Syria and Israel last year had been "honest, fair and objective," adding: "We now want this mediation more than ever."
Israel's once strong ties with Turkey have become strained since the Islamist-rooted government in Ankara launched an unprecedented barrage of criticism of Israel over its deadly offensive on Gaza.
Outrage over the offensive also scuttled Israel's Turkish-mediated indirect talks with Syria.
Erdogan meanwhile hailed Turkey's fast expanding relations with Syria as model for its ties with other Arab countries.
"We are in the process of building with Syria a sound structure for the Middle East -- we need to create a foundation for peace in the region," Erdogan said in a speech to the two countries' businessmen broadcast by Syrian state television.
"We are living through historic times. We are going to overcome all the obstacles and form with Syria a model for cooperation to be copied elsewhere."
Erdogan said Turkey was working on expanding its relations with other Arab states, including Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
He said he hoped bilateral trade between Turkey and Syria would rise from two billion dollars a year now to five billion dollars over the next three to four years.
The improvement in relations between Ankara and Damascus over the past decade has been remarkable.
Ties were long dogged by Turkish accusations of Syrian support for the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, as well as disputes over sharing the waters of the Euphrates river and Syria's historical claims to the Hatay region which colonial power France ceded to Turkey in 1938.

Thursday, December 24th 2009

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