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.