US delegation in Syria for talks


Damascus: A US military and political delegation arrived in Syria Wednesday for talks on the situation in Iraq and security in the region, two weeks after US Middle East special envoy George Mitchell’s last visit to Damascus.

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The six-member delegation, headed by Mitchell’s assistant Frederic Hof and Michael Moeller of the US Central Command, discussed border security between Syria and Iraq and curbing the crossing of foreign fighters into Iraq.

According to sources close to the meetings, the visit aimed at discussing several issues which “Syria insisted on raising as one package”.

The military delegation, on a follow-up visit to the one in June, also discussed the situation in Iran, bilateral relations and the peace process in the region.

Since US President Barack Obama came to office in January, Washington has sought to improve relations with Syria after they were strained under the administration of former US president George W. Bush, who accused Syria of interfering in Lebanon’s domestic issues and allowing fighters to cross into Iraq.

Last Friday, the Lebanese daily al-Akbar reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had received a three-page letter from Obama expressing his willingness to cooperate with Syria and to open a new chapter in their relations. It added that Syria had responded with a positive letter of its own.

In July, Mitchell said that he had discussed with al-Assad the prospects for a comprehensive peace in the region and improved US-Syrian relations, adding that “the US is committed to a dialogue based on mutual interest… and a solid foundation for discussion of our shared goals and of real differences, where they occur”.