Syria, Israel At Impasse Over Golan Heights?

Syria's foreign minister said on Monday his country would not go back to peace talks with Israel unless it spells out it would relinquish the Golan Heights and urged the United States to translate its words into actions on the ground.

"We will not return to unproductive talks. When we decide to do so, this means that we will be going in accordance with internationally-recognized bases and formulas, on the basis of the total liberation of the Golan to the 4th of June 1967 borderline," Walid al-Mouallem told a news conference at the end of a three-day meeting of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference in the Syrian capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington that he was ready to resume the talks with Syria immediately, but indicated he would not make any commitments on land first.

Turkey brokered four rounds of indirect talks between the two foes last year – the first such contacts since previous peace negotiations were broken off in 2000 over the fate of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

But Syria froze the contacts at the turn of the year when Israel launched a devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip, controlled since June 2007 by the Islamist Hamas movement, whose exiled leader, Khaled Meshaal, lives in Damascus.

Mr. Obama, as revealed by Jordan's King Abdullah, was promoting a plan involving a 57-state solution in which the entire Muslim world would recognize Israel in return for peace.

"We have been hearing talks from the U.S. administration and we want to see actions. We want to see a comprehensive working plan that would lead at the end to the security and stability of the region," Mouallem said Monday.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday championed the right of resistance to get back occupied lands, branding the "extreme" Israeli government as a "major obstacle" to peacemaking in the Middle East.

An off-shoot committee of the OIC foreign ministers held a series of meetings over the past three days, denouncing the "inhuman" Israeli practices against the Palestinian people and affirming their right to establish an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

"We are living today in a world of the powerful where there is no place for the weak. Power is acquired and not granted," the final communiqué said.

"Israeli inhuman practices require us all not compensate it over its crimes but to ensure that any development in relations – if any exist at all – to the concrete expression of Israel's commitment to just and comprehensive peace, which would guarantee the restoration of legitimate national rights and withdrawal from the occupied lands in Palestine, Golan, and southern Lebanon," it said.

The final statement denounced the resolutions that tie terrorism with race and religion and called for a UN-sponsored conference to identify terrorism.

"We have all cooperated to confront terrorism as dangerous global phenomenon. This however does not mean that we should allow it to be exploited, made an open manipulation tool to call resistance a form of terrorism and to resort to intimidation and browbeating under the title 'Security in Combating Terrorism'," it said.

"Terrorism to be sure, is not a security issue but rather and ideological one with its political, security, and even cultural manifestation .Combating it therefore cannot be by fighting the manifestations but by addressing its core and causes," it added.

The OIC, which is headed by its incumbent Secretary General Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, is an international organization with a permanent delegation at the United Nations. It groups 57 member states, from the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, the Caucasus region, the Balkans, Southeast Asia, South Asia and South America.

The Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers meets once a year to examine a progress report on the implementation of its decisions taken within the framework of policy defined by the Islamic Summit.
  • George Baghdadi

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