Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
[Landis Commentary] It does seem as if the Syrian delegation that was to include Riad Daoudi, a member of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, was disappointed by the cold reception it was to receive from the Americans. The Americans have been adamant that the meeting would not signify any improvement in relations because State Department officials would meet with the Syrians only as private citizens and not as members of a government.
The Syrian press has been depicting this meeting as if Jerusalem had been liberated. I guess that was a mirage. Damascus is still high on the liberation of Paris.
I am off to hear the three at Brookings. I will see what I can report later. Best, Joshua
U.S. to meet three Syrians, but no warming in ties
July 22, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The State Department said on Tuesday a U.S. diplomat will meet three Syrians on a private visit to Washington but made clear this did not signal warmer ties or greater U.S. interest in Israeli-Syrian peace talks.
"We have an interest in reaching out to the Syrian people. However, we are going to continue to limit diplomatic engagement unless the Syrian government takes concrete actions to end its destabilizing tactics," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters.
The United States accuses Syria of sponsoring terrorism, permitting foreign fighters to cross into Iraq, allowing arms to flow into Lebanon, hosting Palestinian militant groups and violating human rights.
Gallegos said a meeting would be arranged between a U.S. diplomat and the three Syrians, whose U.S. visit is sponsored by the Search for Common Ground nongovernmental group that promotes conflict resolution.
The spokesman declined to provide a date or time for the meeting or to say which U.S. diplomat would attend.
On Monday, the State Department had said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, was willing to meet the group.
However, a U.S. official who asked not to be named said Welch may not have returned from a Middle East trip in time to attend the meeting, which he said was tentatively set for Friday, and that someone else would likely meet the three.
Gallegos made clear that a meeting should not be seen as a token of renewed U.S. interest in Israeli-Syrian peace talks that are being sponsored by Turkey, saying that the U.S. focus was on "the Israeli-Palestinian track."
Syrian foreign ministry adviser Riad Daoudi, who has led the Syrian delegation in Turkish-sponsored indirect talks with Israel, is a member of Search for Common Ground's U.S.-Syria Working Group and was expected to visit Washington this week.
However, people familiar with the matter said he stayed behind in Damascus for consultations with Turkish officials.
The three Syrians who came to Washington were identified as Ahmad Samir al-Taqi, Samir Seifan and Sami Moubayed.
A Syrian embassy spokesman said Syria welcomed the visit but that the three did not represent the Syrian government, had no official positions and were visiting as private citizens.
Sen. Barack Obama, on his first and likely only overseas trip as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has remade the campaign's foreign policy playing field, neatly sidestepping Republican charges that he has been naive and wrong on Iraq and moving to a broader, post-Iraq focus on Afg…
(By Karen DeYoung and Jonathan Weisman, The Washington Post)