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Assad Italian presidentSyrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday, following his meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, that peace in the Middle East was impossible because of the actions of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s government “cannot be considered a partner as long as it responds to calls for peace with settlements and the judaization of [Muslim] holy sites” in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Assad said.

He also said that Syria “seriously wants to establish a just and comprehensive peace… through Turkish-sponsored indirect negotiations” with Israel, but cannot engage in such talks because of the current climate.

He urged Italy and the European Union to put pressure on Israel.

The Italian president, who began a three-day visit to Syria on Wednesday, said he was “extremely upset by the Israeli decisions to build settlements” and warned of their “disastrous consequence.”

Israel announced in February that it would include Muslim holy sites in a national heritage plan, while in March Tel Aviv declared that it would expand settlements in the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem and rebuild the Hurva Synagogue.

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