Syrian President Bashar Assad is optimistic about restarting peace talks with Israel, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos told President Shimon Peres Wednesday night, according to Israel Radio.

Moratinos also reportedly told Peres that Iran's response to proposed nuclear talks with the West were insufficient, and he vowed that Spain will push for harsher sanctions against the Islamic republic.

The Spanish foreign minister, who also met with Palestinian leaders, earlier Wednesday said that the world cannot wait 18 more years to see peace in the Middle East.

Speaking after meeting Palestinian officials in Ramallah, Moratinos said that Spain and the European Union "will continue to exert every effort possible to achieve Palestinian aspirations of statehood."

"We cannot wait 18 more years since the Madrid conference," he said. "We have to see a [Palestinian] state established on the 1967 borders."

The first official Palestinian-Israeli peace talks opened in 1991 in Madrid but were later overshadowed by the secret Oslo talks that led to the 1993 signing of the first Palestinian-Israeli peace accord.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said at a press conference with Moratinos: "Instead of listening to the calls from the international community to freeze settlement construction, Israel had announced the construction of 3,000 housing units, and yet it still talks about settlement freeze when actually what will be frozen is the peace process."

Erekat said "We have asked the European Union to help us by forcing Israel to stop settlement activities."

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement Wednesday night that "the coming weeks will be decisive. Either the international community and the Obama administration will pressure Israel to abide by international obligations, or the region will continue in its cycle of instability."

He called on the U.S. administration to "preserve its credibility toward the peace process through actual pressure on Israel to accept international decisions."

George Mitchell, U.S. special envoy for the Middle East, is expected in the region Saturday night for two-day talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials hoping to reach an agreement on an Israeli settlement freeze and resumption of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, which have been frozen for almost a year.