World Bulletin / News Desk
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied a newspaper report on Friday that said he had agreed in principle to hand back occupied Syria land as part of secret U.S.-mediated peace talks that broke off last year.
Syria has long set a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights as a condition for making peace with the Jewish state.
Israeli leaders had consented to at least partial Golan pullbacks in past talks with Syria, though none had gone as far as Netanyahu in agreeing to withdraw to the northeastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth daily said.
The newspaper quoted unspecified American documents as saying Netanyahu had expressed such a readiness, surprising U.S. diplomats during indirect contacts they mediated with Syria two years ago.
These contacts broke off early in 2011.
Netanyahu's office said the suggested withdrawal had been a U.S. initiative that Israel had never accepted and dismissed the report as "politically-motivated", citing the fact that it was published just days after the right-wing leader announced he would move up national elections to early next year.
"This was one initiative among many proposed to Israel in recent years. At no stage did Israel accept this American initiative. It is an old and irrelevant initiative," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.