Russian mediator seeks Israel-Syria deal: report

A senior Russian envoy has been trying to broker a deal between Israel and Syria on the future of the Golan Heights, an Israeli newspaper said on Thursday.The Maariv daily said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov has been working on a plan which would give Syria sovereignty of the Golan Heights but allow Israel to take a long-term lease of the strategic plateau it captured during the 1967 Middle East war.

The report said Sultanov had visited Damascus twice in recent weeks for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and that he had carried messages to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

It said Olmert’s trip at short notice to Moscow for a meeting with Putin earlier this month was connected to Sultanov’s talks.

Israel on Wednesday played down prospects of restarting peace talks with Syria despite Damascus’s participation in a U.S.-sponsored Middle East conference at Annapolis.

U.S. President George W. Bush has also shown little enthusiasm for an Israeli-Syrian peace track, casting doubt on the chances of a breakthrough soon.

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