Syria

Syrian ambassador: 'It's illegal to talk to Israelis'

By Bernard Josephs, October 22, 2009

As a journalist you know you are not going to get anywhere when an ambassador, shepherded by dark-suited aides, refuses to say anything — except that he won’t speak to you.

What seemed to worry Syrian Ambassador to Britain Dr Sami Khiyami was not that I might misquote him, but that I might have Israeli blood coursing through my veins.

Whether he was anxious to follow orders from Damascus is a moot point. But he made it clear that polite, or any sort of conversation, with even the most ordinary of Israeli citizens, was for His Excellency, simply a step too far.

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Syrian missile test fails, killing 20

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 20, 2009

Reports of a major failure in a missile firing test in Syria has drawn attention once more to the military co-operation between North Korea, Iran and Syria.

According to the report by the Japanese news agency Kyodo, two improved Scud missiles were fired in a test at the end of March. Both missiles veered off-course, and one of them landed in a marketplace in a town near the Turkish border, killing 20 people and wounding 60.

North Korean and Iranian experts reportedly participated in the trials.

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Give back Golan Heights, says minister

By Leon Symons, August 6, 2009

British Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis has called for Israel to give back the Golan Heights as part of a peace settlement with Syria.

Mr Lewis, on his first visit to the Middle East, made the call during a press conference in the Syrian capital Damascus after talks with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and his deputy.

Mr Lewis, who is Jewish and the MP for Bury South, said: “We think that there is now a very important opportunity for one of the world’s great conflicts to begin to come to an end.”

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Israeli leaders ‘satisfied’ with Miliband’s pressure on Syria

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 20, 2008

Israeli leaders have expressed their satisfaction with the results of Foreign Secretary David Miliband's visit to the Middle East this week.

They were especially pleased that the Foreign Secretary demanded the Syrians act to prevent the arms deliveries from Iran to Hizbollah being transferred through their territory.

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Miliband in Mid-East diplomacy drive

By Bernard Josephs and Anshel Pfeffer, November 6, 2008

Talks with Syria and the Palestinian Authority will be high on the agenda during Foreign Secretary David Miliband's visit to Israel in 10 days' time. Mr Miliband will be reporting to his Israeli counterparts on his meeting last week with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

Mr Miliband will be travelling to Israel during its election season, and in addition to meeting outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, he will also be sounding out Defence Minister Ehud Barak of Labour and Likud's Binyamin Netanyahu.

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Legal delay scuppers Syria peace talks

September 19, 2008

A round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria scheduled to take place in Turkey this week was cancelled with just one day's notice because the key Israeli negotiator had yet to receive legal approval to participate in the talks.

The cause, government officials said, was the delay in receiving legal approval for Yoram Turbowicz, until last month Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's chief of staff, to continue leading the Israeli delegation.

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Paris welcomes Assad — but Syrian leader snubs Olmert

By Shirli Sitbon, July 18, 2008

Syrian leader Bashar Assad was a controversial guest of honour at France’s Bastille Day celebrations — and snubbed his fellow guest, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Mr Assad was among more than 40 heads of state at Sunday’s launch of the Union for the Mediterranean, a French initiative to bring together the 27 states of the EU with the Balkans and their Arab neighbours.

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Israel and Syria keep talking…

By Sami Kohen, June 20, 2008

Israeli and Syrian representatives held the second round of “proximity’’ talks in Istanbul this week through Turkey’s mediation.

Israeli sources described the atmosphere of the two-day talks as positive and constructive. There are indications that these indirect talks will continue in the coming weeks, although officials refrained from giving any clue as to the date of the next round.

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Sarkozy gets cosy with Assad

By Shirli Sitbon, June 20, 2008

Jewish institutions and opposition parties have criticised the welcome extended by French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to Syrian leader Bashar Assad to the summit launching the Med Union on July 13 and to the next day’s Bastille Day celebrations.

“It is not the invitation to the summit itself we are criticising, but the honours given to Assad the next day when he’ll be the nation’s guest at the presidential tribune for the national celebration,” a spokesman for the Jewish umbrella body CRIF told the JC.

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Peace talks no comfort for jaded Golan Druze

By Paula Slier, May 30, 2008

As Israel and Syria start talks, a community mulls its divided loyalties

In the central square of Majdal Shams, the largest of the four Druze villages in the Golan Heights, towers a large statue of Sultan Basha El-Atrash.

Engraved below the Syrian resistance hero who fought French colonialism are two lines in Arabic by the Tunisian poet Abu El-Qassem El-Shabi: “If one day the people desire freedom and life, then inevitably destiny will comply — and inevitably darkness will melt away, and inevitably the chains will be broken.”

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