Syria key to stability in Mideast: Peretz

Date: 09-23-06

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Syria is the key to stability in the Middle East, Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz said, adding that the door to negotiations with Damascus remained open.

"It is absolutely clear that Syria is the key to stability in the region," Peretz said on public radio Saturday.

"It is the link in the axis of fundamentalism that goes from Iran to Lebanon," Peretz said, in an apparent reference to the support given by Tehran and Damascus to Lebanon's Hezbollah during Israel's 34-day offensive against the Shiite guerrillas that ended with a UN-brokered ceasefire on August 14.

"However, I am opposed to closing the door to the possibility of negotiating with Syria in the future," said the defence minister.

On August 15, the day after the ceasefire went into effect, Peretz said his country should prepare for talks with Syria.

"Every war creates opportunities for a broadened political process ... We must establish talks with Lebanon and prepare the conditions for a dialogue with Syria," Peretz said.

In his radio comments on Saturday, however, Peretz stressed that Israel must be ready to "face any threat from Syria, which could escalate rapidly throughout the region."


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