DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria said that a fifth round of indirect peace talks with Israel scheduled for Thursday had been postponed at the request of the Jewish state.
“The Israeli side asked for it to be postponed,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told reporters in Damascus on Wednesday.
“When Israel is ready to resume the talks, we will be ready as well,” said Moualem, who was speaking after a meeting with his Spanish counterpart.
In Jerusalem, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev declined to go into detail on the delay but said Israel hoped the indirect negotiations would go on.
“Israel remains committed to the Turkish initiative and to the indirect talks with the Syrians. We are hopeful that the next round of talks will be able to begin shortly,” he said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on September 4 the fifth round of Turkish-mediated indirect talks, originally scheduled for earlier this month, had been postponed at Israel’s request because of the resignation of an Israeli negotiator.
Assad had described the fifth round of talks as “crucial.”
The talks are focused on the fate of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Damascus wants the whole territory returned.
Israel wants Syria to scale back ties with its main foes — Iran and the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah militant groups. Syria has so far refused to do so.
Israeli negotiator Yoram Turbowicz announced his resignation as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s chief of staff in July, shortly after Olmert said he would leave office because of corruption charges.
Members of Israel’s ruling party voted on Wednesday for a new leader to replace Olmert, who has promised to resign following the corruption investigation in which he faces indictment.