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As Netanyahu takes Israel's helm, Syria skeptical of peace prospects

Syrian diplomats say Damascus is serious about making peace, and hope Washington will lean on Israel's new government.

At the Arab League summit in Qatar on Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the 'real aim of Israel's recently elected government is against peace.'

Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

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At the outset of 2009, the prospects for peace between Israel and Syria were looking more promising than they had in a decade.

In mid-December, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shuttled between two rooms housing Israeli and Syrian delegations in a hotel here to quietly advance peace prospects between the two countries. The Turkish-brokered negotiations, which began in 2007, were the first serious peace moves between Syria and Israel since 2000. A week later, however, Israel invaded Gaza, and Syria broke off the dialogue in protest.

Now, with a right-wing Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu due to be sworn in Tuesday night, Syria is offering a bleak assessment of Mideast peace hopes in the coming months.

The "real aim of Israel's recently elected government is against peace" and the composition of Netanyahu's incoming Cabinet is a "clear, unsurprising message to us," Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said during the annual Arab League summit in Qatar on Monday.

What Syria wants

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