| GEO World|
| Syria says talk of direct Israel contact premature|
| Updated at: 0441 PST, Saturday, July 05, 2008|
PARIS: Syria's foreign minister said on Friday it was premature to talk of direct peace negotiations with Israel, a day after the Jewish state called for face-to-face discussions to start soon.
A third round of indirect talks between the long-standing foes took place in Istanbul this week and ended with an agreement to hold a fourth round of negotiations in Turkey in late July, a Turkish government source told media on Thursday.
"It's premature to answer this question," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said when asked when direct talks could be held. He confirmed that both sides had agreed to hold a fourth round of indirect talks, but did not say where or when.
"The moment when we feel that we've got the agreed common ground between us and the Israelis, which covers all elements of peace agreement, we will agree on the location of these direct talks," he said in a question and answer session at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).
Syria, demanding that Israel return all of the Golan Heights it seized in 1967, insists peace talks can only succeed with the full involvement of the United States -- unlikely to materialize under President George W. Bush, who views Damascus as an "evil” ally of Iran and of groups hostile to U.S.-Israeli interests.