US special envoy for Middle East peace George Mitchell said U.S. administration would welcome Turkey's further participation in Israel-Syria indirect peace talks that halted last year.

 

At a press briefing, Mitchell told reporters that U.S. officials had been consulting intensively with Israel and Syria for several months.

"We are seeking a mutual agreeable basis for the parties to renew talks, and we have strongly encouraged them to do so," Mitchell said.

Asked if he saw a role for Turkey to play in talks at this time, Mitchell said, "I have had several meetings with Turkish officials, including the president, the prime minister, the foreign minister and others, and we welcome their further participation. But that is, of course, a decision for the parties to make, whether or not they wish to continue the indirect talks in that manner. So it will be up to them to decide how best to proceed. I've told the Turkish officials and both the Syrian and Israeli officials we welcome that as one mechanism. We welcome any mechanism that will result in progress."

Mitchell said he intended to make this a part of his discussion in his next visit to the region.

He also said both sides were well aware that President Barack Obama's vision of comprehensive peace included Israel and Syria.

"We think that is an important part of the objective. I have met with President al-Assad and with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and discussed directly with them our hope and our encouragement that peace talks be revived, and we will continue in that effort. Until now, while they both state the willingness to get into them, their differences on how to do so have prevented them," Mitchell said.

"The government of Syria wishes to conclude the indirect talks which were begun through Turkey last year before going to direct talks. The government of Israel prefers to go directly to direct talks without preconditions. We are attempting to find a mechanism on which both can agree because we think it's important that they begin the process. We want them to do so. We want to support that effort in any way that we can," he added.

AA