JERUSALEM (AFP) - The new Israeli government will not cede the strategic Golan Heights for the sake of peace with Syria, a senior official quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as telling his cabinet on Sunday. The announcement comes after heated debate among ministers about the wisdom of pursuing the indirect contacts with Syria via Turkey launched by the former government of Ehud Olmert. The return of the strategic plateau seized by Israel in the 1967 war is a non-negotiable Syrian demand. I have no intention of bringing Israeli forces down from the Golan, Netanyahu was quoted as saying. Everything that has taken place up to this point has no relevance. Netanyahu made similar remarks in an interview with Russian-speaking journalists last week. Staying on the Golan Heights ensures that Israel has a strategic advantage in case of conflict with Syria, he said. In May last year, the Olmert government announced it had launched Turkish-brokered feelers with Syria about relaunching US-sponsored peace negotiations with Syria which were broken off in 2000. Syria froze those indirect talks at the turn of the year when Israel launched a devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip, controlled since June 2007 by the Hamas movement whose exiled leader Khaled Meshaal resides in Damascus.