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Report: US, France working on Israel-Syria deal

Sept. 13, 2010 9:11 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 15, 2010 2:22 P.M.)
BEIRUT (Ma’an) -- Along with the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, France and the US are acting to put in motion negotiations between Israel and Syria, the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported.

Over the course of the holiday and yesterday, two top officials responsible for talks on this channel visited Israel, the newspaper reported. They met with top Israeli officials and in the next few days will go to Damascus for meetings with Syrian President Bashar Assad and with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, according to the report.

As-Safir noted identified one French official as Jean Claude Cousseran, French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s special envoy to the Israeli-Syrian talks, and Fred Hoff, deputy to special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, who is responsible for the Syrian-Lebanese desk for Washington. Cousseran and Hoff met with Defense Ministry officials including Defense Minister Barak.

The newspaper reported that on his visit to Damascus, Cousseran would try to clarify to what extent Syria would agree to be flexible in its demands of Israel even though, at every opportunity, Assad is firm about stressing that without a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, there will be no peace. Cousseran will also try to help get the dialogue moving on this track by means of putting pressure on the Israeli side to enter into the negotiations. France believes that if this works, the US will take on itself the role of patron of the talks.

US envoy George Mitchell is also expected to visit Damascus and will try to get the support of President Assad for the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and to relay a message in the matter of the importance that the US attributes to talks on the Israel-Syria track.
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