15 September 2010 /REUTERS WITH TODAY'S ZAMAN
Turkey must play a role if peace talks between Syria and Israel are to resume, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told a French envoy. Assad, speaking to Claude Cousseran, a French presidential envoy entrusted with trying to relaunch negotiations between the two sides, also said on Monday that a peace agreement between Syria and the present Israeli government was “hard to imagine.”
Syria's official news agency quoted Assad as saying that Syria was hoping to see progress on an accord with Israel but that “Israeli policies make that hard to imagine.”
Assad told Cousseran that any new talks must build on the four rounds of indirect talks that were mediated by Turkey but broke down in the early stages of the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip in 2008. In May, relations between Israel and Turkey deteriorated after Israeli soldiers killed one American-Turkish and eight Turkish civilians onboard an aid ship trying to break the Israeli siege of Gaza.
“President Assad affirmed that Syria seeks a just and comprehensive peace and the importance of coordinating with Turkey in this regard,” the agency said. Syria regards France as a counterweight to the United States -- a close Israeli ally that is also seeking to relaunch talks between Syria and Israel and is supervising renewed direct talks between Israel and Palestine.