by: Ronny Sofer, Ynetnews.com - Last updated: 2007-01-16
A senior Syrian Foreign Ministry official on Tuesday morning denied Israeli newspaper Haaretz's report on secret talks held between Israel and Syria, which led to a document of understandings.
"No negotiations took place, the Haaretz report is completely false," the official said.
Israeli officials also denied the report. Sources at the Prime Minister's Office said that they were unfamiliar with alleged agreements between Israel and Syria on the secret channel reported.
Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief Dov Weisglass told Ynet that "the Haaretz report is baseless. Sharon was never updated on such negotiations. Someone may have said something once, but it's on the level of gossip. There was no such thing in practice."
Dr Alon Liel, who took part in the talks, said that "the headline might seem misleading." According to him, the report hints that an agreement was formulated, while there were only contacts.
According to the Haaretz report, representatives from Israel and Syria , who have been holding talks for about two years, reached a document of understanding for a peace agreement between the two countries.
The unofficial talks were held with the knowledge of senior official in the government of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and later in the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert .
According to the report, Israel agreed to withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of June 4 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remains open.
Syria demanded that the withdrawal will be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked to spread out the withdrawal over 15 years.
It was also agreed that militarized areas would be set up in the Golan Heights territories evacuated by the Israeli forces. Areas of lowered military presence would be set up in Israel, west of the international border, and in Syria, east of the Golan Heights. The ratio in terms of territory would be 1:4 in favor of Israel.
On the water issue, it was agreed that Israel would retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). A park would be set up east of the border, which both Israelis and Syrians would be free to access and which would be run by the Syrians.
The park would be set up after the Israeli withdrawal is completed and the Syrian sovereignty is implemented, and would be open to Israelis without Syrian approval. The park would be located on a significant part of the Golan Heights.
Syria also agreed to end its support for Hizbullah and Hamas and distance itself from Iran.
Reproduced with permission: Ynet