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Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 17:36 UK

Israel-Syria talks 'constructive'

Israeli troops in the Golan observe Syria (archive)
Previous talks broke down due to disagreements over the Golan heights

Israel and Syria have completed two days of indirect peace talks in Turkey, with Israeli and Turkish officials hailing them as a success.

The two sides have agreed to at least two more sets of talks under Turkish mediation, the officials said.

The Israeli delegation is thought to include two top aides of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Previous peace talks collapsed in 2000 over disagreements about the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

The two sides announced the existence of indirect talks last month.

An unnamed Israeli official told journalists the discussions had been held "in a positive and constructive atmosphere".

"The two sides reiterated their commitment to make progress in the talks and to meet on a regular basis."

Turkish officials also said an agreement had been reached to carry on the talks, although Damascus has not yet confirmed that any talks have taken place.

And it is not thought there is any firm plan for a face-to-face meeting between the two sides.

At the moment, Turkish officials have been passing messages between the two delegations.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said on Sunday that Israeli and Syrian leaders should meet.

He recalled the groundbreaking visit by Egypt's Anwar Sadat to Israel in 1977 which triggered a process that led to a peace treaty.

"If the Syrians really want peace, they must agree to a summit meeting between the Syrian president and the Israeli prime minister," said Mr Peres during a visit to the US.

The Syrian government has insisted peace talks can be resumed only on the basis of Israel returning the Golan Heights.

Israeli authorities, for their part, have demanded that Syria abandon its support for Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups.


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