Assad urges U.S. to take active role in Mideast peace
U.S. emissaries optimistic about renewing ties after meet with Syrian leader, official state news agency reports.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has called on the United States to take a more active role in advancing regional peace efforts in the Middle East, the official Syrian news agency reported on Monday.
The report came in the wake of Assad's meeting with two members of the U.S. Congress. The Congressmen were reportedly optimistic over the chances of increasing cooperation between the two countries, according to the news agency.
U.S. President Barack Obama administration has been reviewing U.S. policy toward Syria, including whether to return an ambassador to Damascus, a move the former Bush administration had been considering in the final months in office.
Relations soured between Syria and the United States in recent years and the U.S. ambassador was pulled out of Syria after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Syria, which is on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, denies any involvement in Hariri's murder but Washington pointed fingers at Damascus.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month said she did not know where the renewed meetings in Damascus meetings would lead and made no comment about when an ambassador would be sent back.
"We don't engage in discussions for the sake of having a conversation. There has to be a purpose to them, there has to be some perceived benefit accruing to the United States and our allies," she said in early March.
A U.S.-Syrian rapprochement could also help clear the way for Israel and Syria to restart indirect peace talks they held under Turkish mediation last year but which were halted after Israel's December military offensive in Gaza.
Clinton has said once a new government is formed in Israel, the Israeli-Syrian peace track would be on the Obama administration's agenda.
Israel has conditioned a deal with Syria on Damascus cutting its ties with the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.
Meanwhile, Obama arrived in Turkey on Sunday in his first visit as president to a Muslim country. He plans to boost bilateral ties between the two allies.
Obama's Obama arrives in Turkey on first visit to Muslim country , on the last leg of an eight-day trip that marks his debut as president on the world stage, is a recognition of the secular but predominantly Muslim country's growing clout and Washington's desire for its help to solve confrontations and conflicts from Iran to Afghanistan.
Turkey will not be the venue for Obama's promised major speech in a Muslim capital, but his April 5-7 trip will be a way to emphasize his message of reaching out to Muslims.
In Istanbul, Obama will attend a reception of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, co-hosted by Turkey and Spain to bridge the gap between Western and Islamic countries.