LONDON - British Foreign Secretary David Miliband reestablished high-level intelligence cooperation with Syria, according to Syrian officials quoted in the London-based daily The Times.
During his visit to Damascus on Tuesday, the first by a British foreign secretary in seven years, Miliband said he hoped his discussions would draw Syrian President Bashar Assad's government to closer ties with western nations.
Miliband laid the groundwork for Tuesday's meeting when he met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem earlier this year in New York.
According to the article, Miliband said Syria had one of the best intelligence-gathering networks in the Middle East.
In a joint press conference with Moallem, Miliband said he hopes the peace talks between Israel and Syria will continue, with Syria playing a major role in advancing peace and stability in the Middle East.
Miliband also said establishing a Palestinian state, based on Israel's pre-1967 borders, is the foundation for peace in the region.
According to The Times, Miliband hopes his meeting with Assad will influence U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to focus his attention on the Middle East.
In a congratulatory phone call following the U.S. presidential elections, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown advised Obama to make the Arab-Israeli conflict his foreign policy priority.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Obama called Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to assure him that his administration would move the peace process forward.
According to Saeb Erekat, senior PA negotiator, Obama affirmed his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"Obama promised that he'll continue efforts to push the peace process forward in order to arrive at a two-state solution," Erekat said. "He said he will work with both the Palestinians and the Israelis to achieve peace, which is the interest of both parties," he said.
Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post