ABU DHABI // The US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, yesterday met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The senior American diplomat, who is touring the region and arrived in the UAE capital on Thursday, spoke with Sheikh Mohammed, who also is the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, during lunch at the Emirates Palace hotel.
During the meeting, they reviewed the latest developments on the regional and international levels and discussed options for moving forward the peace process in the region, according to WAM, the government news agency. Sheikh Mohammed stressed the need for serious movement at both regional and international level to push both the Palestinian and Israeli sides towards peace negotiations and a solution.
Mr Mitchell was in the Emirates en route to Syria where he will hold discussions aimed at boosting ties with Damascus and brokering a Middle East peace deal. This is Mr Mitchell's second visit to Abu Dhabi. In February he made a tour of the UAE capital and held talks with Sheikh Mohammed on developments towards Israeli-Palestinian peace. The trip to Damascus will be Mr Mitchell's second visit to Syria since June and is aimed at "trying to see what Syria's prepared to do ... to move towards a comprehensive process", Philip Crowley, a US state department spokesman, said on Thursday.
"We're also trying to develop ... bilateral issues that we have with the Syrians as well. I would imagine both of those will come up." Barack Obama, the US president, has moved to re-engage Damascus - a key regional player - as part of a bid to breathe new life into faltering peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The previous administration of the former president George W Bush had put relations with Syria on hold in 2005 after the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
"There are aspects of Syrian behaviour that trouble us and we think that there is a way that Syria can be much more constructive on a whole host of these issues," Mr Obama said in a recent television interview. "But, as you know, I'm a believer in engagement and my hope is that we can continue to see progress on that front." Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain's crown prince, wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece last week: "We as Arabs have not done enough to communicate directly with the people of Israel.
"Essentially, we have not done a good enough job demonstrating to Israelis how our initiative can form part of a peace between equals in a troubled land holy to three great faiths." firstname.lastname@example.org * With agencies