Israel Urges Lebanon to Talk Peace
After initiating "indirect peace talks" with Syria and negotiating a tentative truce with militants in the Gaza Strip, Israel is now turning its attention to Lebanon, in hopes of opening "direct, bilateral" peace talks. As of last week, however, Lebanon has rejected this idea and stated that Israel "should first withdraw from what it considers to be occupied Lebanese territory".
JERUSALEM - Israel on Wednesday urged Lebanon to open peace talks, the latest move in a flurry of developments aimed at easing the multiple conflicts in the region.
Israel's most explicit overture yet toward Lebanon comes just weeks after Israel and Syria confirmed they had relaunched indirect peace talks, ending an eight-year breakdown. Earlier this week, a senior government official confirmed Israel was pursuing a prisoner swap with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, and on Thursday Israel and Gaza Strip militants are to enter into a truce after long negotiations.
Government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was interested in "direct, bilateral" talks and ready to put "every issue of contention" on the table, including a key border dispute over a tiny patch of land Israel controls.
Regev's comments were the government's first response to new U.S. efforts to end the dispute.
Last week, when Olmert hinted Israel would be interested in talks with Beirut, the Lebanese government rejected them. On Wednesday, a Lebanese government official said that position hadn't changed.
In the past, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora has said his country would be the last to make peace with the Jewish state.