JERUSALEM, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday denied a media report that he had accepted an American initiative in 2010 to return the Israel-annexed Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for Syria's abandonment of its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah.
Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot revealed Friday morning the existence of secret contacts between Israel and Syria that started in December 2010 but were later abandoned by Israel in March 2011 after the insurgence intensified in Syria.
According to the report, indirect talks were undertaken by U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and Fred Hoff, who passed messages between the two sides.
The report said Netanyahu agreed to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights and return to the June 4, 1967 lines. A source who was intimately involved in the talks was quoted as saying that Netanyahu expressed willingness to discuss the Syrian demand for a full Israeli withdrawal, on the condition that Damascus agrees to break away from its military alliance with Iran and Hezbollah and stop supporting Palestinian militant groups.
"This was one initiative of many that have been proposed to Israel in recent years. At no stage did Israel accept this American initiative," Netanyahu's office said in a statement, "The initiative is old and irrelevant, and its current publication stems from political considerations."
Israel captured the Golan Heights in a 1967 war and then annexed the strategic territory overlooking northern Israel in 1981. Syria has long called for Israel's full withdrawal from the area and set it as a condition for making peace with Israel.