Monday, April 27, 2009

China backs Syria's quest to recover Golan

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi wrapped up a regional Middle East visit in Damascus on Sunday saying Israel should return the Golan Heights to Syria.

"China supports Syria's efforts to recover the Golan," which Israel seized during the 1967 war and annexed in 1981, Yang told reporters during a joint news conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

While Yang was visiting Syria, a split appeared on Sunday within the Israeli government of hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu on possible peace negotiations with Syria.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel had an interest in holding talks with Damascus, in an apparent rebuke to comments made by firebrand Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"Israel has an interest in normalising its relations with Syria while protecting its vital interests," Barak told reporters in Jerusalem ahead of Israel's weekly cabinet meeting.

"Negotiations with Syria should always be part of the Israeli government's agenda," he said.

Lieberman said in an interview published on Saturday that Syria's support of Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups made it no partner for peace.

"We need to look at the reality. Until today, Syria is hosting the headquarters of terror organisations such as Hamas and the (Islamic) Jihad," he told the Berliner Zeitung daily, referring to radical Palestinian groups.

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