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Israeli PM: Syria Peace Talks Will Not Detract From Palestinians

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says peace talks with Syria will not detract from negotiations on the Palestinian front.

A statement from Mr. Olmert's office says he gave that assurance during talks Thursday with visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

Mr. Olmert also said Israel hopes to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians in the coming year.

Earlier Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Syria must cut ties with Iran and Arab militant groups if it wants peace with Israel.

Livni called Syria's ties to groups like Hezbollah and Hamas "problematic," and said Damascus would have to stop supporting terrorists for a peace deal to move forward.

Israel and Syria said Wednesday they have resumed peace talks through Turkish mediators after an eight-year freeze.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Israel has expressed a willingness to return the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau taken from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day war.

Mr. Olmert says his government is prepared to make substantial concessions for peace with Syria. But he has not specified the nature of those concessions.

The two governments say the talks are a "serious and continuous" dialogue aimed at reaching a "comprehensive peace."

Previous U.S.-mediated peace talks between Israel and Syria collapsed in 2000 over the extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.