Visiting former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Saturday expressed hope that relations between Washington and Damascus would improve after U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January.
"I don't have any doubt that the situation will improve between the United States and Syria after we have a new president," Carter told a press conference after meeting with Syrian President Basharal-Assad.
Carter, who arrived here from Beirut earlier in the day, expressed his hope that the new U.S. administration would send an ambassador to Damascus soon in the new year.
He said he discussed with Assad the reopening of an American school and a U.S. cultural center in Damascus, which were closed following a U.S. cross-border raid in October that Syria claimed eight civilians were killed.
Washington withdrew its ambassador to Syria after the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, which were blamed on Damascus by the West and its Lebanese allies. But Syria denied any involvement.
On the peace process in the region, Carter said peace will not be achieved in the region without the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and from the rest occupied Arab territories.
According to the official SANA news agency, Carter also told Assad in their talks that he hoped the new U.S. administration would engage in the peace process in the Middle East.
Any progress in this process would contribute significantly to the stability of the region and the world, said Carter.
Syria and Israel have conducted four rounds of indirect peace talks under the mediation of Turkey since May, but a fifth round had been delayed due to the internal politics in Israel after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided to resign for his corruption scandal.
During his two-day stay in Damascus, Carter is expected to meet exiled Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal.
It is Carter's second trip to Damascus this year, after the first one in April.