Turkey Looking to Resume Syrian-Israeli Peace Talks

Official Turkish source: FM Ahmet Davutoglu given green light to initiate a new round of meetings.

Turkey is eager to initiate a new round of meetings between Israeli and Syrian interlocutors, similar in format to the indirect talks held under the Olmert administration. An official Turkish source told Haaretz that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was given the green light to initiate a new round of meetings and that in the coming days a proposal to this effect will be relayed to Israel.

Turkey is likely waiting for the results of envoy George Mitchell's visit to Damascus on Friday. The U.S. special envoy to the Middle East will also visit Beirut shortly before traveling to Syria.

Mitchell had been expected in the Syrian capital several weeks ago, but delayed his visit because of the parliamentary elections in Lebanon.

The U.S. administration welcomed the recent election results in Lebanon, and praised the lack of Syrian interference. Mitchell's visit is seen as another important step in the normalization of ties between Washington and Damascus.

Sources in the State Department said that, in the near future, a decision will be made on the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus - a post that has remained vacant since the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, in which Syrian agents were implicated.

In recent talks held between Syrian and Turkish officials, Damascus made clear that it supports the Arab Peace Initiative and the reconciliation efforts among the various Palestinian factions.

The Syrian stance may have been the catalyst for Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal saying in Cairo, following a meeting with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman, that his group will not pose an obstacle to the peace process.

Egypt is pressing Hamas and Fatah to reach a reconciliation agreement by July 7, which would pave the way for the formation of a Palestinian national unity government.

Syrian President Bashar Assad meanwhile, in a meeting with Turkish journalists last month, said that in any Syrian-Israeli negotiations Ankara will be a mediator. "There will be no negotiations without Turkey," he said.