Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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U.S. State Department: Syria can play positive role in Mideast

Posted by gaetanoditommaso su 19 febbraio, 2009


19 February 2009

U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said at a press conference Wednesday that Syria could play a positive role through efforts to bring peace and stability to the Middle East.

“Syria can play a role, and a positive role, in the region by trying to help bring peace and stability to the Middle East, and I think that the Syrians understand that they can do that,” Duguid told reporters. “That is what the U.S. would like to see all nations in the region do.”

Duguid’s remarks came in response to an interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad published in the British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday, in which the Syrian leader voiced hope that U.S. President Barack Obama’s policies will facilitate stronger ties between Syria and the U.S. In the interview, Assad said that he hoped the U.S. would send an envoy to Damascus and fulfill Obama’s promise to renew dialogue with nations shunned by the previous U.S. administration of George W. Bush.

“We have the impression that this administration will be different, and we have seen the signals. But we have to wait for the reality and the results,” Assad was quoted as saying.

On the other hand, U.S. senators visiting the Middle East said Wednesday that Syria needs to change its behavior to improve relations with the United States.

The comments came from Benjamin Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, who met with Assad on Wednesday, and John Kerry, a Democrat who heads the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in Beirut Wednesday. Kerry is slated to visit Damascus later this week as is another congressional delegation.

U.S.-Syrian relations have long been tense, particularly since the U.S. ambassador was pulled out by the Bush administration in 2005 to protest Syria’s suspected role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in neighboring Lebanon. Damascus denied involvement but in the uproar that followed was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year military presence.

The United States has also criticized Syria for supporting militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and has accused Syria of not doing enough to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. Syria has said it is doing all it can to safeguard its long, porous border.

After meeting with Assad, Cardin said the U.S. administration will be watching Syria’s actions very carefully.

Cardin said he blamed Syria for the deteriorated relations, saying Syria has isolated itself by sponsoring international terrorism, providing safe haven for terrorist organizations and Syria’s troubling relations with Iran.

“The question we came to try and answer here in Syria is whether or not Syria is ready to make important and significant decisions that bring us closer rather than lose this opportunity to move forward,” Cardin said.

Kerry said the U.S. would renew diplomacy with Syria but in return expected Syria to change its behavior, particularly with respect to Iraq and Lebanon. He said the U.S. also wants Syria to help with the disarmament of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group.

“But unlike the Bush administration that believed you could simply tell people what to do and walk away and wait for them to do it, we believe we have to engage in a discussion,” he said.

“And so we are going to renew diplomacy but without any illusions, without any naivete, without any misplaced belief that just by talking, things will automatically happen,” Kerry added after a meeting with the Lebanese president.

Syria’s official news agency said Assad told Cardin that his country wants to develop relations with the United States. It said their talks focused on developing bilateral relations through serious and positive dialogue based on mutual respect and joint interest in finding just solutions to the region’s problems.



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