U.S. Envoy's Upcoming Syria Trip Raises Speculation of Possible Peace Developments

Reports say George Mitchell will brief Syria's leadership on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and discuss ways in which Syria could contribute to the talks.

George Mitchell, America's special envoy to the Middle East, is due in Damascus on Thursday, Arab media outlets reported Wednesday.

According to these reports, the U.S. diplomat will visit Syria to brief its leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that began on Tuesday and discuss ways in which Syria could contribute to the talks.

Clinton and Mitchell AP 31.8.2010

Mitchell is also expected to discuss the resumption of indirect talks between Israel and Syria, according to the media reports.

The Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida reported on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had sent a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad in which he expressed confidence that the two countries could conclude a peace agreement within a year. The report, citing what it termed Israeli government sources, said the message included a promise that the Golan Heights would be returned to Syria, but that the agreement would be implemented over a period of 10 to 15 years.

That is similar to the deal Israel is proposing to the Palestinians, which also calls for any agreement to be implemented gradually.

The Kuwaiti newspaper also said that in the coming months, there would be new developments in the Israeli-Syrian relationship.

Many in Israel's defense establishment have argued for some time that a peace agreement with Syria is possible, and that such a deal would alter the entire regional situation for the better.

On Monday, France's envoy to the Middle East, Jean-Claude Cousseran, also met with the Syrian president, who lambasted Israel's polices but reiterated his country's desire for peace.