DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syria will not accept preconditions over its resumed peace talks with Israel and will not compromise its relations with other states, the government daily Tishrin said on Saturday, referring to Iran.
"Damascus rejects all preconditions concerning its relations with other countries and peoples," it said after an Israeli call for Damascus to distance itself from Tehran, which has called for the destruction of the Jewish state.
"Damascus will make no compromise on these relations," an editorial said.
Israel and Syria announced on Wednesday they had launched indirect peace talks, with Turkey acting as go-between, after an eight-year freeze.
Israel's Housing Minister Zeev Boim said peace "can be reached with the Syrians only if they end all terror activities, including supporting and arming Hezbollah in Lebanon and giving up their strategic dependence on Iran."
Israel regards Iran as its greatest strategic threat.
A three-decade alliance between Damascus and Tehran was bolstered in 2006, when they signed an agreement on military cooperation.
A first round of peace feelers between Syria and Israel last year ran up against Damascus's objection to any explicit linkage between a peace deal and its support for Iran and Arab militant groups.
Last June, Syria's ruling coalition, the National Progressive Front, accused Israel of trying to "impose conditions which have nothing to do with the principles of peace."
Israel also wants Syria to stop supporting Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups. Damascus has repeatedly denied having links to such organisations.
Tishrin said on Saturday that adding non-negotiable conditions to the indirect talks would hamstring efforts to achieve peace.
"Syria is not concerned with Israeli (policy) but with peace and achieving it by the shortest route," the editorial said.
Damascus says it has received Israeli commitments for a full withdrawal from the occupied-Golan Heights, the main sticking point in previous talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has carefully avoided mentioning the Golan but has drawn fire after hinting that Israel would have to pay a painful price for a peace accord.
The strategic Golan plateau was seized by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed in 1981 in a move never recognised internationally.
On Wednesday Boim, of Olmert's centrist Kadima party, said he opposes "in principle any withdrawal from the Golan Heights."
"Nevertheless we should hear exactly how and on what issues the negotiations are held," he added.
Syria insists that any negotiations with Israel must be based exclusively on the principle of the exchange of land for peace.
The Golan, which rises from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, is now home to some 20,000 Israeli settlers and key military installations.
In the past Damascus has insisted that the entire Golan Heights be returned, and also that it have access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main source of fresh water.
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