May 21, 2008 / 10:25 AM / in 10 years

FACTBOX: Five facts about the Golan Heights

(Reuters) - Israel said on Wednesday it was holding indirect peace talks with Syria. Here are five facts about the Golan Heights, which stands at the heart of the conflict between the two neighbors.

— The Golan Heights form a strategic plateau between Israel and Syria of about 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles). Israel captured it in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.

— About 18,000 Israeli settlers have moved to the Golan, which also borders Jordan, since 1967. Some 20,000 Druze Muslims also live there. Israel gave the Druze the option of citizenship though most rejected it.

— Syria tried to regain the Golan Heights in the 1973 Middle East war, but the assault was thwarted. The two signed an armistice in 1974 and the Golan has been relatively quiet since.

— The Golan contains important water sources and has further strategic value because it overlooks northeastern Israel including the Sea of Galilee, a tourist attraction and Israel’s biggest reservoir.

— In 2000, Israel and Syria held their highest-level talks over a possible return of the Golan and a peace agreement. But the negotiations collapsed.

Writing by David Cutler; Editing by Ari Rabinovitch and Richard Balmforth

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