Turkey and Syria in regional talks
Erdogan and al-Assad meet to discuss next round of Israel-Syria peace negotiations.
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2008 15:07 GMT
Erdogan, left, and al-Assad with Syria's first lady, far right, and Erdogan's wife [AFP]

Bashir al-Assad, the Syrian president, has met Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, at a Turkish beach resort to discuss regional peace efforts.

Al-Assad's visit to Bodrum, on the Aegean coast, comes a week after Israel and Syria wrapped up a fourth round of Turkish-mediated indirect talks in Istanbul without succeeding in moving on to face-to-face negotiations.

"Erdogan invited him and they have issues to discuss, such as peace talks," a Turkish government source, who declined to be named, said.

The next round of Israeli-Syrian indirect peace talks is expected in mid-August.

Turkish officials fear domestic political issues in Israel, where Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, is due to step down shortly, will make it more difficult to move to direct talks.

Public statements also suggest that Syria and Israel remain divided on core issues such as Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, Damascus' ties to Iran, and the role of the resistance groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

Erdogan met al-Assad at Bodrum airport before taking him to a luxury hotel for lunch on Tuesday.

Assad and Erdogan have met frequently and are known to have a friendly relationship.

Trade ties have also grown between the two neighbours.

Next week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, will visit Istanbul for talks with Abdullah Gul, his Turkish counterpart, on Tehran's nuclear programme.

Over the past few years, Gul and Erdogan have sought to boost Turkey's role as a regional problem solver in the Middle East.

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