Syria's foreign minister said last week that the talks had not made enough headway for the two sides to hold direct negotiations. In an interview with France-3 television, Assad said officials were working to make them happen.
"Today there is a possibility of peace," Assad said. "But nonetheless, we cannot say that we are close to
achieving peace. We are preparing for direct negotiations. When we reach that step, we will be able to say that we are approaching peace.
"Today, we can only say that we have opened the door to peace," he said, in remarks in Arabic that were dubbed over in French.
'We have to wait for new administration'
Turkey has mediated a series of indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel in a bid to get the sides to meet face-to-face and end their decades-old enmity. Assad said that direct talks in the future could happen with US, French and Turkish backing.
Despite his comments about potential peace, Assad said he believes that Israel "could try to launch different attacks, maybe against Iran, and maybe also against Lebanon, and of course it could launch an attack on Syria." He said such attacks would have "catastrophic results."
Direct Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations under US sponsorship collapsed in 2000. Assad said the administration of US President George W. Bush "started to remember that there was something called
peace seven years into its existence," and that a new administration could help smooth the process.
"Of course we have to wait for the new administration to know what its orientations are," he said. "Afterward we can speak of direct negotiations."
Assad spoke with France 3 before a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which is a sign of warming ties between the two countries. Sarkozy, the prime minister of Turkey and the emir of Qatar will hold a summit with Assad in Damascus on Thursday.