US ready for rare talks with Syria

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.

US ready for rare talks with Syria
The United States said Monday it was ready to hold rare talks with two visiting key Syrian officials this week, in another signal of Washington's recent policy shift to engage directly with its "enemies".

A senior U.S. diplomat may meet members of a Syrian group, possibly including a Syrian government adviser, who are on a private visit to Washington, the U.S. State Department said.

The State Department said Assistant Secretary of State David Welch was prepared to meet the group, visiting under the sponsorship of Search for Common Ground, a nongovernmental organization that promotes conflict resolution.

"We are aware of the visit sponsored by Search for Common Ground ... that includes Syrian intellectuals and possibly officials," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters. "The group is coming as private citizens and academics, not as a government delegation."

Gallegos said the United States was not certain who was in the Syrian group. No meeting with Welch, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, has been scheduled and if one were to take place, he would meet group members in their private capacity.

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, it was not clear whether he was coming.

Daoudi was scheduled to speak at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday but a spokeswoman for the Washington think tank said he had to stay in Damascus and would be replaced at the event by Samir al-Taqi, another Syrian government adviser.

The Search for Common Ground official organizing the visit was not immediately available for comment.

It was unclear whether any State Department meeting would reflect a change in the U.S. stance toward the Israeli-Syrian peace effort.

U.S. officials have been cool to the talks between Israel and Syria since they were disclosed in May, saying they would welcome a peace agreement between the two but that they saw the Israeli-Palestinian track as more promising.

Reuters
Last Mod: 22 Temmuz 2008, 15:21
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