DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria has no intention of waging war against Israel to regain the occupied Golan Heights from the Jewish state, Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara said on Tuesday.
“Israel knows we don’t want war. We should always be ready to respond to Israeli aggression, but Syria will not start a war,” Shara said at a lecture in the Syrian capital.
“People on Syria’s streets do not want war, although they will not accept anything less than Israeli withdrawal from the whole of the occupied Golan Heights. The Arab initiative is clear in this regard and we support it,” Shara said.
Shara was referring to an Arab peace proposal which offers Israel normal ties in return for withdrawal from all the land occupied by Israel in 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights.
Israel, however, said Syria’s alliance with Iran and backing for the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas form an obstacle to resuming the talks, which collapsed in 2000 over the extent of an Israeli pullout.
The two countries are formally at war, but a ceasefire has held firm on the Golan front since 1974, a year after Syria launched a war that failed to regain the plateau.
With the two sides playing down prospects of resuming negotiations, speculation in the Israeli media has mounted about a Syrian attack to regain the Golan.
Syria has been taking steps to improve its military and there have been reports of Damascus recently buying Russian weapons that include an air defence system and upgrades to its fighter jets.
Shara said any preparations Syria was making were defensive in nature and that Israel “wants any excuse to launch a war.”