Israel seeks Lebanon peace talks

June 18, 2008 at 2:12 PM
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JERUSALEM, June 18 (UPI) -- The Israeli government, after reaching a cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza, now says it's ready for direct peace talks with Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has told other government officials he wants to start a round of negotiations with Lebanese leaders, government spokesman Mark Regev told reporters Wednesday. The New York Times said Regev indicated all issues would be on the table, including the thorny topic of which country has jurisdiction over the disputed Shabaa Farms area.

The call for talks with Lebanon comes at a time when Israel and Syria are holding indirect negotiations on a host of topics. Because the Lebanese Islamic militant group Hezbollah has links to both Syria and Hamas, engaging Lebanon is seen as a logical progression of the other diplomatic efforts, the newspaper said.

The Shabaa Farms issue will likely be an early focus of any negotiations with Lebanon, sources said. Israel continues to hold the district as part of its occupation of the Golan Heights, and Hezbollah has cited Shabaa Farms as justification for hanging on to weapons in the face of a U.N. resolution calling for them to disarm, the Times said.

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