Syria willing to offer Israel 'warm' peace deal

SYRIA is prepared to offer Israel a 'warm' peace, involving the establishment of full relations between the two Middle East neighbours, in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouk al-Sharaa, said in London yesterday.

Although the Israeli-Syrian peace process has stalled over Syria's demand for a prior commitment to full withdrawal from the strategic heights, Mr Sharaa was nevertheless optimistic that peace was possible this year. 'We hope to achieve peace by the end of the year. If it is not achieved, it's not because of us.'

Speaking to reporters during a visit for talks with the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, Mr Sharaa was only mildly critical of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and of Jordan's King Hussein for signing separate peace deals with Israel but nevertheless reiterated Syria's insistence on a comprehensive regional-wide peace settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This now amounts to a demand for a settlement that meets Syria's and Lebanon's aspirations.

'Normal relations cannot work when part of your land is still occupied. If you go back to the Egyptian peace treaty, you'll see that it led to a 'cold' peace because many preconditions were made that made it very difficult for the Egyptian people to accept,' he said.

Israel is insisting that the withdrawal process is a matter for face- to-face negotiations and has refused to accept the Syrian precondition. Without naming Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, said in an interview yesterday: 'Besides Arafat, there are other leaders in the Arab world who are not likeable . . . however, I would be prepared to make peace with them if they came to Jerusalem.'

By holding out the prospects of a 'warm' peace yesterday, Mr Sharaa was consciously appealing to Israeli public opinion which he said was moving to the realisation that Syria would never accept a partial withdrawal from the Golan heights. 'There is a realisation in Israel that there will be no peace without Syria and Israeli public opinion aware that without full withdrawal from the Golan there will be no peace.' He did not rule out an agreement to demilitarise the Golan area but said such arrangements must be equal and balanced and not to the disadvantage of either side.

An opinion poll at the weekend indicated more than six out of 10 Israelis were prepared to see at least a partial withdrawal from Golan in exchange for peace. The Israeli military, however, remains unconvinced. The chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ehud Barak, recently caused a storm by suggesting that Israel should keep the heights, even in peacetime. Mr Rabin slapped him down on Monday, saying that any decision on withdrawal would be taken by the elected government. The Israeli Prime Minister reiterated yesterday that any deal that involved a 'significant' withdrawal from the heights would be put to a national referendum.

Mr Sharaa was also responding to Israeli fears that concessions on Golan will not lead to the establishment of full relations and could indeed result in the same 'cold' peace that has existed with Egypt since the Camp David accords. President Assad has so far refused to outline the nature of the peace he envisages until Israel commits itself to full withdrawal.

Mr Rabin said yesterday on Israeli army radio that any withdrawal agreed upon could take several years in which normalisation could be tested. Measures during this period would include an exchange of ambassadors and the introduction of free travel and trade.

Part of Mr Sharaa's mission to London was to persuade Mr Hurd to support Syria's demand that the European Union lift its embargo on arms sales to Syria as it has already done for Israel, 'despite the fact Israel is occupying part of Syria and Syria is not occupying part of Israel'. Mr Hurd agreed yesterday to back the Syrian request saying he saw no need to retain the embargo.

Mr Hurd said Syria clearly wanted to move towards a successful conclusion of peace talks and added: 'We strongly support that and we hope it will not be long.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea