Syrian President Bashar Assad was quoted on Monday as saying that no agreement with Israel could be reached until the "issue of one-and-a-half million Palestinians is solved." In an interview with Persian Gulf-based newspaper Al-Halij, Assad said that his country sought a "comprehensive" peace with Israel. "The aim of the indirect negotiations," he said, "is merely to check the pulse." Five rounds of indirect talks between Israel and Syria were mediated by Turkey last year, before they were halted when Israel began its offensive against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Assad accused Israel of "foot-dragging," and called for a "clear dialogue" between Damascus and Jerusalem. He said that "six points" had been discussed in the Istanbul talks, though he did not specify. He also claimed that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Israel would "continue contacts" with Syria, and then "started a war in Gaza." Meanwhile, over the weekend, in a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Turkey was willing to host more indirect talks between Syria and Israel. "There have been four rounds of talks between Syria and Israel and we had suspended our mediation during the Gaza war, but whenever Syria and Israel are ready, and if they ask, we can get involved in the process again," Babacan said. AP contributed to this report.