Syria Rejects Israel's Call to Cut Ties With Iran, Arab Militant Groups

DAMASCUS, Syria —  Syria rejected Israel's demand that Damascus cut its ties with Iran and Arab militant groups as a condition for a peace agreement, a state newspaper said Saturday.

The announcement comes even as Syrian ally Hamas, a sworn foe of the Jewish state, cast doubt on the Israeli government's ability to even deliver on a peace agreement due to the weakness of its prime minister.

The remarks underline the difficulties facing the negotiations between Israel and Syria, restarted Wednesday after an eight year hiatus. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had said Thursday Syria would have to stop supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and cut ties with Iran if any agreement were to happen.

Saturday's editorial in Tishrin, which reflects official policy, said that Israel could not lay down conditions ahead of negotiations.

"Damascus does not want preconditions, that would put the cart before the horse ... It does not bargain over its relations with other countries and people," the editorial stated.

"It goes without saying that impossible conditions cannot facilitate the work of negotiators," added the editorial which likened it to "putting stakes in the wheels" of the peace process.

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