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Wednesday, August 27, 2008 

Syria says it's ready for direct talks with Israel

This could be the breakthrough. Bashar Al-Assad is ready to come face to face with Ehud Olmert.

The two countries have been involved in indirect talks for most of this year.

Israel has been asking for a direct meeting for months, but Syria has resisted. Now, things are slowing down, and the chance for a deal looks more distant than it has done at any point during the latest round of talks.

Syria has been holding off on direct talks because it is waiting for Bush to leave office. But Barack Obama's adviser recently visited Syria and told Bashar if he doesn't speed this process up, Barack won't get involved if he comes to power. No-one wants to support a process which could fail.

Syria says it just wants the US to back the talks. France has already said it will.

Apparently, the deal is almost concluded. The technical details - who does what, where and when, have been sorted out. It just needs the politicians to sit down and say 'I do'.

Add to the mix the visit from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He's coming to Damascus in a few days. And he's already supporting direct talks. Bashar's words could spur Sarkozy into talking to Bush.

This has all come from David Ignatius, who has spoken to Bashar's advisers.

So that's it - a few words from Bush - "I support Israel's talks with Syria", and we could be almost there.

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