DAMASCUS (Reuters/AFP) - A US envoy discussed Washingtons Middle East peace efforts with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday but a State Department official said major disagreements still plagued relations with Damascus. We are well aware of the many difficulties ... yet we share an obligation to create conditions for negotiations to begin promptly and end successfully, said George Mitchell, President Barack Obamas Middle East envoy. Syria has an integral role to play in reaching comprehensive peace. Relations between Syria and the United States improved after Obama took office in January and US officials said he was committed to seeking a peace deal between Syria and Israel as part of an overall Middle East peace deal. The Syrian government, however, remains under US sanctions, partly because of what the United States describes as a Syrian role in helping insurgents infiltrate Iraq. Obama renewed the sanctions last month and said Syria still posed a threat to US interests. A senior US State Department official made it clear that Mitchell, who has also been in Israel and Lebanon, was not mediating between Syria and Israel. At this point we are still talking to the parties, Syria and Israel, about how they see the best way to proceed. We are not in a position right now to recommend what is the best way to resume the Syria-Israel track, the official said. I think you are going to see a number of continued efforts to improve the US-Syrian bilateral relationship. There are a lot of very serious issues, though, where we disagree. The official said issues that needed solving centred on Syrias role in Iraq and its relationship with Iran, the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanons Shia movement Hezbollah. He would not be drawn on how Washington viewed Syrias influence on Hamas or what role Damascus was playing in the crisis between Hamas and the Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. There have been some very interesting statements by Hamas. We are watching the situation of Hamas very closely. Our goal is to get to a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue and we hope that Hamas adopts positions that allow it to become part of that solution, he said. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who lives in exile in Syria, said in an interview published on Thursday that Obama should drop conditions for talking to the group. Meanwhile a US embassy official told AFP an American military delegation had talks with officials in Damascus shortly before Mitchells arrival on Friday. The talks were positive and constructive, the source said, without elaborating. Damascus and Washington have always had strained ties and they deteriorated after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Relations worsened following the 2005 assassination of Lebanons former premier Rafiq Hariri. Washington recalled its ambassador in February 2005 following Hariris murder. The assassination has been widely blamed on Syria Lebanons former powerbroker but Damascus has categorically denied any involvement. The United States has also imposed sanctions on Syria since 2004 over charges that it was a state sponsor of terrorism.