Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Israel-Syria peace deal could threaten Iran, Hezbollah

ANKARA, Turkey — Newly launched peace talks between Syria and Israel face daunting odds, but a breakthrough could bring fundamental change to the Mideast by returning the Golan Heights to Syria, cutting off support for Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, and diminishing Iran's regional influence.

After eight years of stalemate and tension, the two countries announced Wednesday that they had launched a bid to end one of the region's longest-running disputes.

In similar statements issued from Damascus and Jerusalem, the rival neighbors officially declared that they are taking part in indirect negotiations with Turkish diplomats serving as mediators.

"The two sides stated their intention to conduct these talks in good faith and with an open mind," according to a statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Syrian foreign ministry. "They decided to pursue the dialogue between them in a serious and continuous way, in order to achieve the goal of comprehensive peace."

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