EU foreign policy head, in Damascus, urges fresh peace talks
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, told reporters in Damascus after meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday that he hoped 2009 would be a year of peace talks, dpa reported.
Solana, who began a week-long trip to the Middle East in Syria Tuesday night, said he had "the feeling there is a desire to push negotiations (with Israel) forward" after his morning meeting with al-Assad and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallim.
Solana said that the EU's condemnation of the Islamist Palestinian Hamas group was clear and constant.
Syria's harbouring of exiled Hamas political leaders in Damascus has been a constant irritant in its relationships with Western countries, but has also increased Syria's importance in diplomatic efforts to strike a peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The EU has held out the possibility of an economic partnership agreement as an enticement to Syria. On Wednesday Solana said that it was to early to say when that agreement might be signed.
Solana was due to travel to Lebanon and Egypt on Wednesday, and to Israel on Thursday. He would spend Friday and Saturday in the Palestinian territories, before attending a March 2 summit on reconstructing the Palestinian economy in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt.