Languages
Page last updated at 13:24 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 14:24 UK

Israel must stay 'deep in Golan'

Golan Heights (file pic)
The Golan Heights are militarily strategic and a key water source

An aide to Israel's prime minister has said Israel must keep a large part of the Golan Heights, rejecting Syria's major demand for a peace deal.

The previous government held indirect talks with Syria, assumed to be based on returning the Golan Heights, occupied in 1967, in return for peace.

In June, Syrian President Bashar Assad said there was no partner for talks on the Israeli side.

Correspondents say the aide's comments will serve to reinforce this view.

Syria has remained in a state of war with Israel since its 1948 foundation.

Israel took control of the Golan Heights, a strategic mountainous area now popular with Israeli holidaymakers, during the 1967 Six Day War.

'Integral role'

The comments come amid a thaw in relations between the US and Syria.

US President Barack Obama has sent envoys on a series of visits, and Mr Assad recently invited the US president himself to Damascus.

Golan Heights map

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell recently visited Syria and said Damascus had an "integral role" in finding peace in the region.

But the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands to the right of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert.

Correspondents say the new government's emerging position makes an Israeli-Syrian deal look unlikely.

"The position is that, if there is a territorial compromise, it is one that still leaves Israel on the Golan Heights and deep into the Golan Heights," the aide, Uzi Arad, said in an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

He said the Israeli government was willing to resume negotiations with "no prior conditions", but Israeli control of parts of the territory was necessary for "strategic, military and land-settlement reasons... needs of water, wine and landscape".

Syria wants the entire territory back.

The Golan Heights is currently home to about 18,000 Israeli settlers and another 17,000 Syrian Druze.

Israel unilaterally annexed the heights in 1981, in a move that has not been recognised internationally.

All settlements on occupied land are illegal under international law.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Mitchell: Syria has 'crucial' role in peace
14 Jun 09 |  Middle East
US-Syria relations still mired in mistrust
18 Mar 09 |  Middle East
Olmert Turkey talks tackle Syria
23 Dec 08 |  Middle East
Path to peace through Golan Heights
26 Nov 08 |  Middle East
Regions and territories: The Golan Heights
10 Aug 10 |  Country profiles

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific