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Syria Lauds Peres’ Vow for Peace, Wants Action

From Reuters

Syria on Thursday welcomed remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres that he wanted to make peace with Damascus but said he should turn his words into actions.

“Peres should have the courage to say that, without a pullback from all the lands that were occupied in 1967, real progress can never be made on the Syrian track,” the official daily newspaper Al Baath wrote in a front-page editorial. “Talking about a desire to put an end to war and to establish peace is not enough.”

Peres vowed to the Israeli Parliament on Wednesday that he would work for the peace with Syria that eluded his predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish militant Nov. 4.

“I wish to say to the Syrian president, Hafez Assad, that the logic of war between us has ended and the remaining differences can be settled in negotiations carried out in mutual respect,” Peres said.

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Peace with Syria remains the great prize for Israel, which has reached peace agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization and with Jordan in the past two years.

Syria and Israel have held sporadic talks since 1991, but progress has stalled over the fate of the Golan Heights, which was captured by Israel in 1967 Middle East War.

Future security and diplomatic ties are also at issue.

The Al Baath editorial said: “President Hafez Assad has said that Syria is ready for full peace in return for full withdrawal, but Israel’s leaders refused in the past to say the word which could open the door for a breakthrough which is full withdrawal.”

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Damascus wants a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and says security arrangements should be equal and balanced. Israel refuses to reveal the extent of a possible pullback until Syria agrees to establish full normal ties with the Jewish state.

The paper criticized Rabin, saying he encouraged hard-liners who opposed peace. It said Peres appeared to be following a different path.

“The indications which Peres was keen to highlight are opposite to the stand of Rabin, who froze talks on the Syrian track and who made impossible ideas which could not help the peace process,” Al Baath said.

“What is required of Peres is not only raising slogans about peace, but to say the word which would activate the peace process on the Syrian track,” it added. “The ball is now in the court of Peres’ government.”

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