x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Mitchell's talks with Assad 'candid'

The US Middle East envoy has held "candid and positive" talks with the Syrian president amid a flurry of US diplomacy in the region.

The US Middle East envoy George Mitchell said he had "candid and positive" talks with the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad today as Washington began a flurry of diplomacy in the region aimed at pushing forward the peace process. Mr Mitchell arrived overnight for his second visit to Damascus since June and was due to head on to Israel later today, as the defence secretary Robert Gates was also due in the region.

"I have just completed a very candid and positive conversation with President Assad," Mr Mitchell said. "I discussed with President Assad the prospects for moving forward on our goals of comprehensive peace in the region and improved bilateral ties between Syria and the United States," he said. US President Barack Obama is determined to reach a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbours in order to guarantee "stability, security and prosperity" in the region, he said.

"If we are to succeed, we will need Arabs and Israelis alike to work with us to bring about comprehensive peace. "We will welcome the full cooperation of the government of the Syrian Arab Republic in this historic endeavour." * AFP