Assad wants US role in Arab-Israeli peace talks

Syrian leader meets US envoys, who say talks on regional matters were "candid and constructive."

Bashar Assad 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bashar Assad 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Syria's president urged the United States on Sunday to play a more active role in achieving Arab-Israeli peace, the country's state-run news agency said. On Sunday, President Bashar Assad met US Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Republican Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina. The three focused on ways to develop bilateral relations through "serious and constructive dialogue based on mutual respect and common interests," SANA reported. "They also discussed the situation in the Middle East and the necessity that the United States plays an active role in achieving peace in the region after experience has proven that wars create more problems and human catastrophes," SANA said. A statement issued by the two congressmen, and distributed by the US Embassy in Damascus, said the two officials "had candid and constructive" meeting with Assad over the Syrian-Lebanese relations, the security situation on the Syrian-Iraqi border, peace in the region and humanitarian situation in Gaza. "We are optimistic that, although we have substantial differences, we nonetheless have shared interests in the region. With genuine effort on all sides, we are hopeful that we can work constructively toward our mutual goals," the statement added. Both countries have said recently that they wish to improve relations, despite lingering differences, such as Syria's backing of Hamas and Hizbullah as well as its alliance with Iran. Israel and Syria held four rounds of indirect peace talks mediated by Turkey last year, but Syria cut off the negotiations in protest over Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza in December and January. For the past year, Assad has been saying he wants direct negotiations with Israel mediated by the United States. Assad has also said he wants to meet President Barack Obama.