China backs Syria’s quest to recover Golan Heights

April 27, 2009

DAMASCUS (AFP)--Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi wrapped up a regional Middle East visit in Damascus Sunday saying Israel should return the Golan Heights to Syria.

“China supports Syria's efforts to recover the Golan,” which Israel seized during the 1967 war and annexed in 1981, Yang told reporters during a joint news conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
While Yang was visiting Syria, a split appeared Sunday within the Israeli government of hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu on possible peace negotiations with Syria.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel had an interest in holding talks with Damascus, in an apparent rebuke to comments made by firebrand Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
“Israel has an interest in normalizing its relations with Syria while protecting its vital interests,” Barak told reporters in Jerusalem ahead of Israel's weekly cabinet meeting.
“Negotiations with Syria should always be part of the Israeli government's agenda,” he said.
Lieberman said in an interview published Saturday that Syria's support of Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups made it no partner for peace.
Earlier this month Muallem said that Syria is ready to resume indirect peace talks with Netanyahu's right-wing government.
Syria and Israel held four rounds of Turkish-mediated talks last year but discussions were suspended when Israel waged a deadly offensive against the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip in December and January.
Yang has visited Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories during his regional tour and has urged Israel to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon. -