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Syrian President Bashar Assad made a promise to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he would make efforts to bring about an agreement between Hizbullah, Hamas and Israel regarding the release of the kidnapped IDF soldiers, the London-based newspaper, Al-Hayat, reported on Thursday.
According to the report, Assad told Pelosi, who visited Syria on Wednesday that Damascus "will invest all its efforts" in order to prompt Hizbullah and Hamas to finalize agreements with Israel to release reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured in July 2006, and Cpl. Gilad Schalit, captured in June of the same year.
In related news, Israeli officials commented on Assad's interest to begin peace negotiations.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim said the Syrian president should prove his intentions toward coexistence with Israel through actions, even minor ones, if peace talks between the two nations are to be resumed.
"The fact that he is holding an olive branch in his beak still doesn't turn him into someone who really wants peace with Israel," Boim told Israel Radio. "We are not asking that he totally stop, just do something however minor that will show his real intentions through some sort of action."
Boim said Israel would be willing to give up the Golan Heights as part of an eventual deal. Past negotiations with Syria have centered on the strategic plateau, but the sides could not agree on the scope of the withdrawal.
"We know that the price will be, in the end, that Israel will come down from the Golan Heights," Boim said.
Deputy Premier Shimon Peres said that Assad's declarations that Syria wanted to return to the negotiation table were illogical, while the country continued to support terrorism.
"It is not logical that Syria says it is ready for peace, yet actively supports terrorism," Peres said, also to Israel Radio.
Peres noted that Assad would only be taken seriously once his actions match them.
On Wednesday Pelosi said that she brought a message to Assad from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was ready for peace talks with Syria.
However, Olmert's office said in a statement later this would only be possible if Assad stops supporting Hizbullah and Hamas.
Olmert's office said Thursday it would not issue a response due to the weeklong Passover holiday.
After meeting for three hours with Assad, Pelosi said that he was "ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel."
She said she expressed to the Syrian president "our concern about Syria's connections to Hizbullah and Hamas" and militant fighters slipping across the Syrian border into Iraq.
Pelosi had met with Olmert on Sunday.