France working to resume Israel-Syria talks
President Sarkozy's emissary to meet with President Assad in Damascus next week, discuss renewal of negotiations with Jerusalem. US special envoy Mitchell to visit Syrian capital as well for update on progress made in direct talks between Israel, Palestinians
According to the report, Cousseran will arrive in Damascus early next week and meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.
Cousseran's efforts will focus on understanding the Syrian stand in terms of "ways of action on the Syrian channel" and helping "restart this channel by pressuring the Israeli side to enter negotiations."
According to estimates, France will seek the aid of the Turkish mediator from the latest round of talks between Jerusalem and Damascus, at least at first.
The Lebanese newspaper reported that should the efforts bear fruit, the main sponsor of the talks would be the United States. In the meantime, however, the American administration is focusing on the Palestinian channel, letting France operate on the Syrian channel.
The newspaper added that US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell would arrive in Damascus next week to brief the Syrians on the direct talks launched between Israel and the Palestinians in Washington and ask for their support.
According to the report, Mitchell will stress the American administration's commitment to restart the process on the Syrian channel. Sources in Damascus told the newspaper, however, that they did not expect "effective efforts" on this channel before the US Congress elections in November.
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