Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on Israel on Sunday to prove that it was interested in forging a peace deal, six months after the long-time foes relaunched indirect negotiations. (UPDATED)
"Peace for Israel is a tactical act and not a strategic choice," Assad said in an address to a meeting of Arab lawmakers in Damascus.
"Israel must provide proof of its desire for peace because it is the Israelis who are occupying our land and aggressing our people," he was quoted by AFP as saying.
Syria and Israel recently held four rounds of indirect talks, mediated by Turkey. But the talks made no significant headway, and Syria said a fifth round was postponed at Israel’s request.
Direct negotiations were frozen eight years ago after Israel baulked at Syrian demands for the return of the whole of the occupied Golan Heights, right down to the Sea of Galilee, its main water source.
Israel seized the Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.
"Until now, Israel has been using the peace slogan for internal political purposes and world opinion believes these Israeli manoeuvres," Assad said, calling on Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 war borders.
"Syria decided to resume the peace process... because we are committed to achieving a fair and comprehensive peace," he said, but added that "Our rights cannot be the subject of compromise."
Assad has said that the negotiations need "international patronage" chiefly from the United States, despite the chilly state of diplomatic relations between Damascus and Washington.
Last month, Syrian authorities said American troops attacked a village near the border with Iraq, killing eight civilians. A US official in Washington said the raid was targeting militants smugglings arms and fighters into Iraq.