Syria has told western officials it is prepared to discuss with Israel the resolution of their conflict over the Golan Heights but first wants to be clear as to exactly what piece of geography constitutes the area being discussed. President Bashar al-Assad will not enter into direct negotiations until both sides have clarified what is the area that constitutes the Golan Heights. Israel captured the plateau during the Six Day war in 1967 and then annexed the area ten years later despite being reprimanded by the UN Security Council. Assad’s father refused to sign any agreement that did not include the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a main water reservoir.
There are two issues in conflict– the actual geographical entity that is known as the Golan Heights and the desire of Israel to receive assurances from Syria that it will cease funding terrorism in Gaza and Lebanon and to end its close ties with Iran. The issues in the past were geographical, but now they include political ones. Syria has to decide if it wants the return of the Golan Heights and what is it willing to give in exchange?