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Israel's decision over negotiator delays indirect talks with Syria

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An Israeli diplomatic source says Israel is interested in continuing talks with Syria and that the legal issue surrounding the role of Yoram Turbowitz as negotatior will be resolved in the coming days. Turbovitz agreed to continue in his role as negotiator despite his resignation as chief of the Prime Minister's Office.

President Bashar Assad of Syria says the fifth round of Turkish-mediated indirect talks with Israel that were due to get underway next week, has been postponed because of the resignation of the chief Israeli negotiator.

According to Assad, this round was meant to be crucial and would have defined the course of the negotiations between the two sides. He did not say when the next round is expected.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey says he is convinced that contacts between Israel and Syria will continue even though there have been a number of recent developments on the Israeli side that have delayed the process.

Assad was speaking at the start of a summit with the leaders of France, Turkey and Qatar to discuss prospects for direct negotiations between Israel and Syria. Assad said that in the four preceding rounds of indirect talks, Israel and Syria sought to come up with a draft declaration of principles that would serve as the basis of any future direct talks.

Assad said Syria presented Turkey with six points on its demands regarding an Israeli withdrawal on the Golan Heights. After Jerusalem gave its answer, it would be possible to move to direct talks, but that this would only happen if there was a new leader in Washington who would recognize the need for negotiations with Syria.

Assad added that Damascus is interested in broad international support for negotiations in order to ensure that the new prime minister in Israel continues on the path of Ehud Olmert, who agreed, according to Assad, to a full withdrawal from lands occupied in the 1967 Six Day War.

Assad also said that in his recent meeting with the Lebanese president, it was agreed that Beirut would join negotiations with Israel, but only after direct contacts ensue between Israel and Syria.

Ahead of the summit, Assad and and French President Nicolas Sarkozy held one-on-one talks. The French leader offered his country's help to sponsor direct negotiations between Israel and Syria when the time comes.

A Kol Yisrael reporter adds that during his visit to Syria, Sarkozy was expected to pass a message to Assad from Noam Shalit, the father of captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who is being held in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Reported by REKA Network

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