Syria: Mideast peace process dead

New York - The new Middle East peace talks are a "dead letter" because of Israel's renewed settlement building in occupied Palestinian territories, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Tuesday.

"In Israel there is much talk about peace yet the drums of war continue to sound," Muallem told the UN General Assembly.

But he offered to resume mediation talks with Israel that have been brokered through Turkey.

Muallem joined widespread criticism of Israel's refusal to extend a moratorium on settlement building in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian leaders have threatened to leave US-organised peace talks because of the new building.

"Peace negotiations, we are told, are under way on the basis of the two-state solution, but relentless settlement activities are about to make this two state solution dead letter that stands no chance of survival," the minister told the assembly.

He accused Israel of "feverishly pursuing" efforts to move Palestinians out of Jerusalem. "Israel pursues a fait accompli policy on the basis of which it imposes its will regardless of whether negotiations continue or stall."

But the minister expressed Syrian interest in new talks with Israel.

"Syria is ready to resume peace negotiations from the point where they stopped through the Turkish mediator if it finds in Israel a partner committed to the terms of reference of peace making."

Talks launched in May 2008 broke off in December that year amid Syrian protests over Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Syria demands the return of the Golan Heights, which the Israelis captured in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in moves not recognised by the international community, as a condition for peace with Israel.

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