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Olmert sends envoys to Turkey for more Syria talks PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 31 July 2008

ISTANBUL/JERUSALEM, July 29 ( - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dispatched two top aides to Turkey on Tuesday for a fourth round of indirect peace talks with Syria, an Israeli official said.

Israel and Syria launched Turkish-mediated talks in May but have not yet agreed to hold face-to-face negotiations.

"We are happy with the process. It is taking place in a positive atmosphere and moving forward quickly. But we may need a couple of more rounds (of talks) in order to go into direct talks," a Turkish government source, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

Turkish officials have said the long-time foes would decide during the fourth round whether to move to direct talks starting in August.

Turkish government sources said they expected the fourth round, at an undisclosed location in Istanbul, to take at least two days.

Another Turkish government source said efforts to oust Olmert and the apparent reluctance by the Syrians to rush into direct talks may mean more time would be required to reach the next stage.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has stepped up a campaign to oust Olmert, saying on Monday that their centrist Kadima party had lost its way under his leadership.

The Israeli official, who asked not to be named, named the aides as Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turjeman. They have been leading Israel's first talks with Syria in eight years.

Negotiations centre on the fate of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Damascus demands the return of all the Golan.

Israel, in turn, wants Syria to scale back ties with the Jewish state's main foes -- Iran, Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah. Syria has so far refused to do so.

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