Syrian President Bashar al-Assad states that Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights is a prerequisite for peace between Syria and Israel.
Speaking at a joint press conference with the Austrian President, Heinz Fischer, in Vienna on Monday, President al-Assad highlighted that the strategic Golan Heights will always belong to Syria and Israel's departure from Golan is the only way to peace.
Israel captured the Golan Heights following the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed the Syrian territory in 1981. Raising Damascus' ire further, Israeli warplanes destroyed Syria's al-Kibar conventional military site in 2007 blaming the country for harboring a nuclear reactor -- a claim rejected by Syria.
The Syrian leader meanwhile noted that his country opposes nuclear weapons but believes that all countries should be awarded the right to access peaceful and civilian nuclear energy.
President Fischer, for his part, outlined that Vienna backs Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations based on relevant UN resolutions.
Under the auspices of Turkey, Israel and Syria launched peace talks last May aimed at reaching a comprehensive peace agreement.
Negotiations reached a stalemate in September after the resignation of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Syria then withdrew from the talks in protest to the latest Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip -- in late December 2008 and January 2009 -- where at least 1,330 Palestinians lost their lives in the three-week carnage source
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