Direct peace negotiations between Israel and Syria are imminent, according to a Wednesday report in the Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat. In the report, Turkish officials announced that the direct talks will follow the upcoming round of indirect talks between the two countries.

Yoram Turbowitz and Shalom Turgeman, advisors to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, arrived in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of launching direct talks with the Syrians. The next round of indirect talks, the fourth, is slated to begin in two weeks' time.

Israeli and Syrian negotiators will decide on a start date for the direct negotiations, as well as the composition of the negotiating teams, in about a week and a half, after Syrian President Bashar Assad returns from a scheduled trip to Paris. Assad will be attending a conference in the French capital, alongside Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The Turkish sources were quoted as saying that France also plans to mediate in the talks, primarily with regards to the Shebaa Farms land dispute.

Assad called the political climate in the Middle East Earlier this week "positive," and called on the EU to intensify its involvement in the peace talks with Israel.

"The political climate in Israel is generally positive. We must give the different political processes a new push in order for them to proceed in the right direction," remarked Assad in a Damascus meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, reported Sana, the Syrian government news agency.