Assad agrees to restore Jewish places of worship

Saleh Naami, Tuesday 4 Jan 2011

The Syrian president's gesture is the latest attempt at improving relations with the US

Israel's Channel 10 reported on Monday night that Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad has agreed to the restoration of his country’s synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, especially those in Damascus and Aleppo.

The report mentioned that Assad had made this pledge during a meeting last week with Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The meeting had been set up by a Jewish-American businessman with Syrian roots.

The report added that Assad recently opened up the country for visits by Syrian Jews.

Assad's initiative, Channel 10 said, is an attempt on his part to improve ties with the US.

Hoenlein came to the meeting with a message for Assad from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu concerning the two countries resuming negotiations.

Assad told Hoenlein that the resumption of talks was conditional on Israel agreeing on a complete withdraw from the Golan Heights.

Netanyahu implied that there mediation between Syria and Israel was under way when he noted in a meeting of the Israeli government that Assad refused to concede this condition.

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