Israel and Syria are unlikely to hold full peace negotiations before the end of the year, or without the involvement of the United States, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying on Thursday.
Barak told French newspaper Le Monde that indirect talks between the neighbours, which are being mediated by Turkey, amounted to "preliminary contacts", not negotiations.
"I don't think we will have negotiations before the end of this year nor without the contribution of the Americans, who, alone, can help bridge the gaps," he said, adding he believed the United States would get involved in the future.
The interview, published in French, came ahead of a visit to Israel next week by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and amid speculation Olmert and Assad may meet during a summit of European and Mediterranean leaders in Paris next month.
Assad said on Thursday that more progress was needed before he would agree to a meeting with Olmert.
Barak said that Israel was ready to consider putting an end to its occupation of the territory.
"At the right time, if the negotiations succeed, we will be ready to take difficult decisions," he said.
Last Mod: 20 Haziran 2008, 11:56