Syrian President Basher Assad is "very interested" in reopening peace talks with Israel, according to a former Israeli Foreign Ministry official who had contacts with Syrians for more than two years. The official, Alon Liel, said the Israeli government was aware of his activity, which involved eight meetings with Syrian envoys abroad. The final session occurred during last summer's Lebanon war, he said. "It's very clear to us that Assad wants to talk," said Liel. "This doesn't guarantee in any way an agreement. But for several reasons, not all of them clear to us, he is very interested to launch negotiations."