Secretary of State James Baker, now in Damascus, has told Israel he will fly to the Soviet Union for talks on Middle East peace before arriving in Jerusalem on Thursday night, an Israeli spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The announcement was made as Baker was in Damascus meeting Syria's President Hafez al-Assad for important discussions on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict.Baker arrived in Damascus on Monday night after witnessing burning oil wells in Kuwait - the legacy of the Persian Gulf war. Earlier he met with the rulers in Kuwait, who assured him that the emirate is committed to promoting democracy and protecting human rights.

Baker's plans call for a Soviet and American-sponsored peace conference.