Syria acknowledged it had recently held secret talks with Israel on a resumption of peace negotiations. President Bashar Assad confirmed in a newspaper interview this week that when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was in power, there had been unofficial and indirect contacts between Jerusalem and Damascus. Syrian officials had denied such talks when they were first reported by Ha’aretz in January. “Various figures visited Israel and came to Syria and conveyed to us the Israeli points of view, but there was nothing serious on the ground,” Assad told the Saudi daily Al-Jazeera. Assad voiced hope for a peace deal but noted the unpopularity of Israel’s current prime minister, Ehud Olmert. “The present Israeli government, in particular, is the weakest government in the history of Israel,” he said. “Perhaps we have lost hope in the Israeli government or in the U.S. administration for the next two years, but I cannot lose hope entirely.” Israel is skeptical about Syria’s recent peace overtures, given its sponsorship of Palestinian and Lebanese terrorists.