Israeli Foreign Minister Rules Out Peace Talks With Syria For Now

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Sunday ruled out peace talks between Israel and Syria for now, saying that a "sequence" must be followed, with an end to Syrian support of Lebanese and Palestinian extremists coming first.

Interviewed on Israel's Channel 10 TV, Livni said that a move to open Israel-Syria peace talks now would disrupt efforts to stabilize Lebanon after a 34-day war between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

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Livni said considering Syrian demands for peace with Israel at the same time as pacifying Lebanon after the war would be a mistake.

"The tools are in place to free Lebanon from Syria," she said. "To add other Syrian interests to this 'salad,' if you'll pardon the expression, would in my opinion complicate a process that is acceptable to everyone."

Syria "must understand that (international) demands of it are clear," she said: "stopping support of terrorism — Palestinian as well as Lebanese — and this brings on the issue of sequence."

Livni said that in the past, ill-fated negotiations between Israel and Syria further vexed the tense relations between Israel and the Palestinians. She said the Palestinian issue should be the top priority now.

A previous Israeli government held intensive peace negotiations with Syria that neared agreement but broke down in 2000. Many analysts believe that the shift in Israel's attention from the Palestinians to Syria added to frustration that led to the outbreak of Palestinian violence in September 2000.

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