Following on from the revelations last month in Haaretz that Israel and Syria held secret peace talks for three years, Alon Liel, the Israeli negotiator spoke publicly for the first time yesterday . Despite official denials of the talks by both the Israeli and Syrian governments, Dr Alon Liel explained both the content of the meetings and how they were conducted at a press briefing in Jerusalem.
He said that senior Israeli and Syrian officials knew about the process as it happened and that the Swiss government, which has good relations with Damascus were the sponsors and organisers.
Dr Liel said that while the Syrians were feeding into the negotiations with government approved ideas and suggestions, the Israeli government were not. He said that the Syrians wanted the negotiations to be moved from "back channel" into the open, but that the US vetoed any formalization of the track showing no interest in engaging the Syrians. Olmert then followed the American stance. This happened 10 or 11 days into last summer’s war in Lebanon.
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