Israel has rejected a Syrian demand that it withdraw from the Golan Heights it has occupied since 1967 before peace talks can resume between the two countries, public radio reported on Saturday.
"When the Syrian president says that Israel must commit to pulling back to the lines of June 4, 1967 he is imposing a prior condition" that is unacceptable, it quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying on Friday.
"I cannot accept this before negotiations even begin," the radio quoted Olmert as saying during a visit to northern Israel.
"I want to make peace with all Arab states and I want to do so through direct negotiations, as was the case with Egypt and Jordan," Olmert said.
On Tuesday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on Israeli leaders "to state in a clear and official manner their desire for peace" and "to give guarantees that all of our land will be returned."
He was speaking in parliament in Damascus after being sworn in for a second seven-year presidential term.
Without naming it, Assad said a "third country" has worked for weeks to narrow the differences between Syria and Israel in a bid to reactivate the peace process between them.
Direct peace talks have been frozen since January 2000. Damascus is demanding the return of the Golan, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed in 1981.
Assad said in his speech Syria could send an emissary to this third country to meet Israelis, adding: "This is the maximum that we can do."
On June 9 Olmert invited Assad to negotiate with him directly "wherever he wants."
Israel's top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily also reported last month that Olmert had secretly sent several messages to Assad via Germany and Turkey.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Temmuz 2007, 09:51