US Senator Meets With Syrian President



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.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs