News

US Senator Meets With Syrian President

Multimedia

Audio

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry Saturday. This is the latest in a series of contacts between the two countries.

Syrian government TV emphasized the importance of Senator Kerry's visit and showed President Bashar al-Assad smiling and gesturing energetically, as both men met to explore improving relations between the United States and Syria.

Relations between the two countries have been strained for years. Syria's support for Hamas and Hezbollah has been a point of contention with Washington. The United States also has accused Syria of allowing militants to cross its border into Iraq. Syria insists it is doing all it can to safeguard its long, porous border.

Relations soured further when the Bush administration pulled the U.S. ambassador out of Syria in 2005 to protest Syria's suspected role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus has denied involvement in his death.

In the past few days, there has been a flurry of U.S. congressmen passing through Syria, including Senator John Kerry, who arrived Saturday - a further sign that Washington is engaging in a new openness toward Damascus.

President Barack Obama recently spoke of opening a new dialogue with old foes, alluding to countries like Syria and Iran, if they would "unclench their fists."

The State Department also announced Friday it has scheduled a meeting next week with Syria's ambassador to the United States to discuss outstanding differences between the two countries - the first such meeting in months.

A State Department spokesman said Ambassador Imad Mustafa was invited to meet with Acting Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman next week.

The spokesman cited a U.N. nuclear agency report Thursday that said traces of uranium were found at a Syrian site suspected of being a covert nuclear plant. The State Department urged full Syrian cooperation with the IAEA.

President Assad told a British newspaper this week he hopes for a new relationship with the United States now that the administration of former President George W. Bush is over. The Syrian president also said he expects President Barack Obama to send an ambassador back to Damascus soon.

The Syrian government daily Techrine also refrained from its usual criticism of Washington in its morning editorial, insisting that a "serious and positive dialogue was built on mutual respect and common interests and [recognition] of Syria's important role in the region."

Senator Kerry also had some tough words for Syria, during a visit to Lebanon, Wednesday, insisting that Damascus must "respect the political independence of Lebanon [and] help in the process of resolving issues with Hezbollah and with the Palestinians."

Syria has yet to send an ambassador to Lebanon, despite the opening of an embassy in Beirut, last December.

Kerry equally criticized Bush administration policy towards Syria, noting that it was naïve to "believe you could simply tell people what to do and walk away and wait for them to do it."

He went on to describe his visit to Syria as a bid to "renew diplomacy, but without any illusion or misplaced belief that, just by talking, things will automatically happen."

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs