09:27 GMT10 August 2020
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    Syria, which formally remains at war with Israel, has never abandoned its internationally-recognized claim to the Golan Heights, which were annexed by the Jewish state during the Six-Day War in 1967.

    In 2010, Syrian President Bashar Assad sent a secret letter to then-US counterpart Barack Obama proposing the resumption of peace talks with Israel, a message which was also shared with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Haaretz cited former US Secretary of State John Kerry as saying.

    The newspaper referred to Kerry's recently published book titled Every Day is Extra, in which he, in particular, explained that "Assad asked me what it would take to enter into serious peace negotiations, in the hope of securing the return of the Golan Heights, which Syria had lost to Israel in 1967."

    READ MORE: Damascus: Syria's Sovereignty Over Golan Heights Not Up for Negotiation

    "I told him that if he were serious, he should make a private proposal. He asked what it would look like. I shared my thoughts. He instructed his top aide to draft a letter from Assad to President Obama," Kerry wrote.

    He noted that in the letter, Assad specifically called on Obama to support renewed peace talks with Israel, signaling "Syria's willingness to take a number of steps in exchange for the return of the Golan from Israel."

    Shortly after the meeting with Assad, Kerry visited Israel and shared the information with Netanyahu, who Kerry said "was surprised that Assad was willing to go that far, significantly further than he'd been willing to go [previously]."

    READ MORE: Israeli Army Identifies Projectile Launched From Syrian Soil Into Golan Heights

    According to Kerry, Assad finally failed to deliver on his promises, as the Obama administration tried to test his seriousness by asking the Syrian President to take "confidence-building measures" toward both the US and Israel, including a halt of alleged arms supplies to the Islamist militant group Hezbollah.

    Assad's letter was written a year before the start of Syria's civil war and Syria and Israel were engaged in US-mediated negotiations up until early 2011. At the end of the day, both sides failed to arrive at a political accommodation at the time.

    READ MORE: Israel to Boost Golan Heights' Population, Development Amid 'Security Danger'

    On August 23, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Reuters that he hadn't given up hope that the US would recognize Tel Aviv's claim to the Golan Heights, which were seized by the Jewish state from Syria during the Six-Day War, in a move that was condemned by the UN Security Council as illegal.

    The ongoing tensions between Damascus and the Jewish state further escalated on July 16, when the Syrian government troops said that they had captured a strategic hill near the Golan Heights in a push to eliminate the remaining militants operating in the area, prompting Israeli forces to go on high alert.

    Israel has recently intensified strikes in Syria, citing the alleged Iranian military presence in the Arab Republic as a pretext for its attacks.

    Tehran and Damascus have repeatedly rejected the allegations, insisting that only Iranian military advisers are currently present in Syria in order to help the legitimate authorities fight terrorism.


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    letter, arms supplies, peace talks, message, Bashar Assad, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Israel, Syria
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