According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, The United States Department of State confirmed Friday the report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relayed a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad in an effort to reach a peace agreement between the two countries.
The report of the talks first surfaced in an article in the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, earlier on Friday.
Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland responded to reporters’ questions about the report saying that “prior to the eruption of all of the violence in Syria, there were efforts to try to support contacts between Israel and Syrian officials.”
According to Nulland the U.S. involvement in these preliminary negotiations was part of George Mitchell’s mandate.
Nuland added that “the conditions in Syria aren’t suitable for a serious effort. But we all hope that we will have a new day in Syria and there will be another opportunity for her to make peace with her neighbors.”
According to the report in Yediot Aharanot, Netanayhu agreed to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights, and return to June 4 1967 lines. According to a source who was intimately involved in the talks, however, in practice the prime minister’s proposal was slightly different. Netanyahu expressed willingness to discuss the Syrian demand for a full Israeli withdrawal, but only on the condition that Assad accept a series of Israeli demands regarding the military alliance between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, as well as Syrian support for Palestinian terror organizations.
The source, who took part in the talks and asked to remain anonymous as he had agreed to maintain confidentiality, agreed to recount some of the details of the talks that took place between Damascus and Jerusalem on the eve of the outbreak of revolt against the Assad regime.
In his message Netanyahu said that he would be ready discuss Syria’s demand for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, to June 4 1967 lines, on the condition that Syria agree to abandon its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, the report claimed.
The indirect talks that were undertaken with American mediation did not yield results, however, and were abandoned by Israel in March 2011 after the extent of the rebellion against the Assad regime became clear.