Jerusalem – As talks between Israel and Syria continue, tensions continue to rise between the United States and Russia.

In a meeting between Vice President Dick Cheney and Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday, during a diplomatic-economic conference they both attended in Italy, Mr. Cheney accused Russia of arming worldwide terrorism.

“Russia has sold advanced weapons to regimes in Syria and Iran. Some of the Russian weapons sold to Damascus have been channeled to terrorist fighters in Lebanon and Iraq,” Mr. Cheney said.

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah fielded the RPG-29 anti-tank grenade launcher against Israeli tanks with great success. The weapon is among Russia’s latest, compared with the older Soviet RPG-7, dating back to the 1960s, more commonly used by terror groups. According to reports, Hezbollah obtained the RPG-29s from Syria, which had in turn received them from Russia.

Mr. Cheney also referenced Russia’s recent invasion of Georgia and the tens of thousands of Georgians who had been displaced or killed by Russian forces.

“It’s unfortunately the case that Russia’s leaders regard the expansion of free governments and democratic values as a threat to their country’s own interests,” Mr. Cheney said of Russia antagonism toward Georgia’s pro-Western government.

Mr. Peres told Mr. Cheney about his meetings with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and said that he had gained the impression that Russia opposes Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms.

“In the name of religious fundamentalism, Mr. Ahmadinejad is seeking to impose terrorism and religious hegemony upon the entire Middle East,” he said. “The United States and Europe must create a clear alternative to oil, which is the main funding source of worldwide terrorism.”

In an interview that he gave to the Sunday Times in London over the weekend, Mr. Peres said that he had advised Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not to attack Iran.

Mr. Peres added that Israel is determined to fight against terror by using advanced technology.

“War against the terrorist groups is not like war against armies,” Mr. Peres said. “A joint intelligence array of Israel and the moderate Arab states must be formed, with assistance from the United States and Europe, in order to provide an appropriate response to worldwide terrorism, whose major centers are located in the Middle East.”

For his part, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem made it clear over the weekend that Israel’s answer regarding the future border between the two countries would be key to peace.

In an interview with the London-based Arabic lauguage newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, published last Wednesday, Mr. Muallem referred to the six-point “statement of principles” his government had given the Turkish mediator during the talks in Istanbul.

It appears the Syrians are demanding a written Israeli commitment or public statement of its agreement to withdraw to border as it stood prior to the June 1967 Six-Day War. Consequently, the Syrians could once again position troops and mortars on the Golan Heights to once again pose a security challenge to Israel’s Upper Galilee region if they chose to do so. This remains a serious Israeli concern when it comes to discussions with Damascus.

“That is not a subject for discussion anymore, but rather a basis for the opening of direct negotiations,” Mr. Muallem said. As a result, the fifth round of talks will be “substantial and important” and will deal with this matter.

Syrian officials said over the weekend that full Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights is not subject to negotiation. As of now, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains entrenched in his position.

He has conditioned the holding of direct negotiations on having the United States accompany the talks. From his perspective, American support is essential, mainly for economic reasons. In order to end his increasing economic dependence upon Tehran, he needs American financial support.

In the past, Mr. Olmert contacted President George W. Bush, updating him Israel’s talks with Syria. However, the chances of an agreement being reached between Israel and Syria before Mr. Olmert ends his term are nil.

Report: US To Take Part In Israel-Syria Talks

The next round of talks between Israel and Syria will be held in Istanbul in about two weeks at the presence of a senior American delegate, according to another London-based Arabic language newspaper, al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Saturday.

According to the report, the American representative will act as an observer in the talks.

State officials denied the report on an American observer being sent to the talks. A source in Jerusalem said, “We are not aware of such a plan.”

A senior source in Damascus refused to address the report directly, telling the newspaper that “Syria is not dealing with the arrival of an American observer to the indirect talks.”

Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was Mr. Assad’s guest in Damascus on Thursday, in a visit which officially ended years of severed relations following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in which senior Syrian officials were implicated.

Mr. al-Assad stated during the meeting with the French president that the fifth round of Turkish-mediated talks with Israel would be postponed due to the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s chief of staff, Yoram Turbowicz. He resigned as the Israeli emissary to the talks at the end of July, when he heard that Mr. Olmert had announced that he intended to resign. The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office awaits the opinion of its legal advisor and the attorney general as to whether Mr. Turbowicz could participate in the talks with Syria on a voluntary basis.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.