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Syrian Govt To Attend Mideast Peace Conference


Syrian Government to Attend Mideast Peace Conference

Syria has accepted a U.S. invitation to attend this week's Mideast peace conference in the city of Annapolis, ending the uncertainty about whether Damascus would participate.

The Syrian government said Sunday that it is sending Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad to Tuesday's conference.

Damascus says it decided to take part after the Israeli-Syrian peace track was added to the agenda. Syria had made its participation conditional on the talks covering its demand for a return of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin welcomed Syria's announcement. She says the Annapolis conference will remain focused on Israeli-Palestinian issues, but may also open what she called "new avenues" to peace in the Middle East.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said today it is important for Arab states to support Palestinian peace efforts. But, she also says the Arab world does not have the right to define the terms of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Arab League foreign ministers decided to attend the Annapolis conference during a meeting in Cairo last Friday.

In another development, Pope Benedict urged the faithful today to pray that participants at the conference find the "wisdom and courage" to bring peace to the Holy Land. In his weekly address in the Vatican, Benedict said he hoped the talks will lead to a "just and definitive" solution to the 60-year Arab-Israeli conflict.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrived in Washington Sunday for talks with U.S. officials ahead of the conference.

ENDS

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