VIDEO - Syrian President Bashar Assad told Qatari newspaper al-Watan that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has expressed willingness to cede the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria. In an interview to al-Watan published Thursday, Assad claims that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who serves as mediator between Israel and Syria, has informed him of "Israel's willingness to pull out from the Golan in exchange for peace with Syria." Video: Infolive.tv The Syrian president also elaborated on the negotiations with Israel brokered by Turkey. "The attempts to mediate between Damascus and Tel Aviv have increased since the aggression against Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and after the triumph of the resistance. "However, Turkey became involved about a year ago, in April 2007. This involvement yielded positive results, and Olmert stressed to the Turkish prime minister his willingness to return the Golan." According to Assad, Erdogan conveyed to him the Israeli message about a week ago. 'US patronage vital for talks' However, the Syrian president seemed reluctant regarding the possibility of direct talks with Israel. "What we need now is to find common ground through the Turkish mediator. There will be no secret negotiations, and any talks will be held via the Turkish side," he stressed. "We will first discuss the return of territory, in order to test whether Israel's intentions are genuine, because we must be very careful and clear on this issue. We may be able to discuss direct negotiations with a future US government," he stated. Assad said that the current American administration "lacks vision and is uninterested in a peace process." He added that the US patronage was vital for talks to succeed. Erdogan is scheduled to visit Damascus on Saturday and the two leaders are expected to further discuss the negotiations with Israel.