Image: Bashar Assad, George Mitchell
Bassem Tellawi  /  AP
Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, meets with U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell at the Syrian presidential palace in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday.
updated 7/26/2009 6:47:27 AM ET 2009-07-26T10:47:27

President Barack Obama's special Mideast envoy said on Sunday that the U.S. administration is determined to achieve a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement.

George Mitchell spoke to reporters in Damascus after talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

It was Mitchell's second visit to Syria since he took up his post in the latest U.S. diplomatic outreach to a country listed by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism and snubbed by Obama's predecessor.

Last month, Mitchell became the highest-level U.S. administration official to visit Damascus since 2005. He acknowledged Syria's clout, declaring Damascus has a key role to play in promoting Mideast peace.

The Obama administration hopes its diplomatic efforts will coax Damascus into playing a positive role in both the Mideast peace process and Iraq.

Syria has established itself as a major player because of its support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas and its off-and-on talks with Israel.

Syria says it's looking forward to Mitchell's visit as "the first step of dialogue."

Mitchell also plans to travel to Israel as part of U.S. efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

More on George Mitchell   |  Syria   |  Bashar Assad

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