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    Israel ready for Syria talks, calls on France to mediate

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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he was ready to resume peace negotiations with Syria and called for France to replace Turkey as the mediator, local media reported.

    TEL AVIV, November 16 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he was ready to resume peace negotiations with Syria and called for France to replace Turkey as the mediator, local media reported.

    "Israel is ready for talks with Syria without preconditions, ideally direct talks," Netanyahu was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying at a government meeting on Sunday.

    "If there will be a mediator we prefer an honest one. The Turkish prime minister objectively did not strengthen the perception that he could be an honest mediator in recent weeks. I prefer the French," he added.

    Israel and Syria held four rounds of indirect negotiations mediated by Ankara last year. The talks came to a standstill in December, when the Israeli launched an offensive against Hamas in Gaza. Ties between Israel and Turkey have deteriorated since then.

    Last week, the Israeli prime minister said he was ready to start direct negotiations with the Syrians. Syrian President Bashar Assad rejected Israel's proposal and said he preferred indirect negotiations mediated by Turkey.

    A dispute over the Golan Heights, annexed by Israel after the Six Day War with Syria, Egypt, and Jordan in June 1967, has been a major obstacle to reviving peace negotiations between the two states. The Syrians demand Israel withdrawal from all of the Golan Heights in exchange for normalizing bilateral relations.

    Netanyahu has reiterated his refusal to fulfill the demand.

     

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