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
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn