Former Diplomat: Assad Seeks Talks With Israel

Syrian President Bashir Assad would like to restart peace talks with Israel immediately, according to Alon Liel, former Foreign Ministry director-general, who met with Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Mustafa, in Washington last week.

Liel, who heads a movement advocating peace between Israel and Syria, said he briefed the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem of his talks.

For two years, until the summer of 2006, the former Israeli official held talks with a Syrian-American businessman, Abe Suleiman, with ties in the top echelons of the Assad regime. The talks were held under Swiss auspices and with the knowledge of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Liel and Suleiman prepared a document on a possible peace agreement which, among other issues, proposed a demilitarized buffer zone on the Golan Heights that would include a "peace park" for tourists.

Liel refused to comment on his visit yesterday, but sources at the Movement for Israel-Syria Peace, said that his visit to the U.S. focused on relations between Washington and Damascus, and included meetings in Congress.