US diplomat in Syria in scramble to save Middle East peace talks
A high-level United States diplomat on Wednesday held talks with Syria's foreign minister to discuss the Palestinian- Israeli peace talks, which are threatening to collapse after a freeze on Israeli settlement construction was allowed to expire, DPA reported.
Frederick Hoff, assistant to US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, met with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallaem in Syria as a follow-up to Mitchell's meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus last month.
Hoff's visit to Syria is part of a wider US effort to get Arab leaders to persuade the Palestinian leadership to continue the direct talks with Israel.
The Arab League will meet this week to decide whether it should continue lending its support to the peace negotiations, in light of Israel's refusal to extend the 10-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.
Hoff, who met with Jordanian officials before traveling to Syria, also emphasized the need for greater engagement between Washington and Damascus.
Last month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the Syrian president on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where she expressed a US desire to reach a "comprehensive" Middle East peace initiative with Israel and its Arab neighbours, including Syria.