In secret Obama-era talks, Israel mulled giving up Golan Heights for Syria severing ties with Iran, Hezbollah: report

i24NEWS

2 min read
The border fence between the Israeli Golan Heights and the Syrian governorate of Quneitra on February 15, 2021.
JALAA MAREY / AFPThe border fence between the Israeli Golan Heights and the Syrian governorate of Quneitra on February 15, 2021.

John Kerry's memoir confirms Damascus outreach to Israel in 2010, says Syria failed on confidence building

In secretive talks mediated by the administration of former President Barack Obama, Israel considered giving up its control over the Golan Heights, London-based Saudi Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on Sunday.

The outlet cited US and Syrian officials with knowledge of the talks that collapsed in 2011 as saying that in response, the Jewish state expected Syria to sever its ties with Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah.

One of the officials cited by the newspaper claimed that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "prepared to withdraw completely from the Golan if the Syrians agreed to a peace agreement" that would include such clauses.

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According to the report, the talks were initiated by President Bashar al-Assad and were largely mediated by US envoy to Syria Robert Ford and State Secretary Special Advisor Frederic Hof, who received the rank of an envoy in 2012. A host of other US officials, including Obama and his Vice President -- and current US President -- Joe Biden were in the know. 

While significant headway has purportedly been made, the negotiations were eventually halted in 2011, as the Arab Spring rolled across the Middle East, with a civil war breaking out in Syria, which saw Damascus build up its ties with Iran and Russia.

The account is partially confirmed by former State Secretary John Kerry, who wrote in his memoir that in 2010, Damascus sent a peace message to Tel Aviv, saying it was prepared to end its ties with the Hezbollah.

However, the talks eventually went off the rails as Syria failed to deliver on confidence-building measures after being asked to stop arming the terrorist group.

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