Damascus eyes new Middle East partners?

July 12, 2010 at 12:22 PM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, July 12 (UPI) -- Damascus could seek another partner to help mediate talks with Israel following the fallout with Ankara over the Gaza flotilla raid, diplomatic sources suggest.

Israeli relations with Turkey were damaged when Israeli forces boarded a humanitarian flotilla trying to break a blockade on Gaza in May. Israeli forces killed nine civilians on a Turkish-flagged vessel in international waters in what the Israeli military said was an act of self-defense.

Damascus was moving forward with talks with Israel using Turkey as a go-between. With the fallout from the Gaza raid, however, Damascus may be seeking help from France or the United States, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet reports.

Diplomatic sources to the newspaper said U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., traveled to Tel Aviv during the weekend before stopping over to Damascus to see if the Israelis wished to convey any messages to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Specter, who sits on a variety of defense and security subcommittees, was due back in Israel late Monday to report on his trip following a visit to meet top Syrian leaders in Damascus, the Turkish report added.

Sources to the Turkish newspaper said bilateral ties between Ankara and Damascus are on good grounds but "they are not good enough or satisfactory for Syrian interests as Damascus is also willing to have good relations with the West."

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