Spokesman Jonathan Peled told journalists on Saturday the government was looking for Ankara to play a helpful role in any talks, saying Israel "greatly appreciated" the offer.

But he denied the move amounted to an Israeli acceptance of recent Syrian peace overtures.

"We need to see deeds and not only words and declarations from Syria. There is still a lot to be desired before we can say we are entering negotiations," he said.

Turkish angle

Earlier on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan told a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he had received a positive response from the two sides to Ankara's willingness to get involved.

The PM said he made the offer to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad when he visited Turkey earlier this month and subsequently communicated his positive response to the Israeli ambassador.

Erdogan said Foreign Minister Abd Allah Gul would start working to such an end "in a very short period of time".

Syria, which recently said it was open to a resumption of negotiations with Israel, wants to recover the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau captured by Israel in 1967.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said the negotiations, which broke down four years ago, must start again from scratch and has insisted on a halt to Syrian support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups.