[QODLink]
Middle East

US senator McCain enters Syria to meet rebels

Republican senator slipped across border for visit lasting several hours before returning to Turkey, spokesman says.

Last Modified: 28 May 2013 03:27
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
It remains unclear whether McCain told US government leaders about his plans to visit the country [Reuters]

US Senator John McCain has crossed from Turkey into Syria to meet with rebel leaders in the war-torn nation, according to his spokesman.

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, slipped across the border on Monday in an unannounced visit lasting several hours before he returned to Turkey, his spokesman Brian Rogers confirmed.

Rogers declined to give any details about the visit.

The visit came as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pledged to do their utmost to bring Syria's warring parties together, and new allegations surfaced about chemical weapons use in the civil war.

General Salem Idris, who leads the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, told news website Daily Beast in an interview that McCain's visit came at a critical time for the rebels, who have stepped up their calls for US support, including heavy weapons, creation of a no-fly zone and air strikes.

"The visit of Senator McCain to Syria is very important and very useful especially at this time," the publication quoted Idris as saying. "We need American help to have change on the ground; we are now in a very critical situation."

McCain is the highest-ranking US official to visit Syria since Robert Ford, the US ambassador to Syria, crossed the border into northern Syria to meet with Syrian opposition leaders earlier this month.

It was not immediately clear if McCain, a fierce critic of the Obama administration's handling of the Syrian crisis, told government leaders about his plans to visit the country.

The White House had no immediate comment.

A senior Sate Department official, in Paris with Kerry, confirmed that McCain did "cross into Syrian territory" but referred all questions to McCain's office.

286

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Featured
Private citizens take initiative to help 'irregular' migrants, accusing governments of excessive focus on security.
Indonesia's cassava plantations are being killed by mealybugs, and thousands of wasps will be released to stop them.
Violence in Ain al-Arab has prompted many Kurdish Syrians to flee to Turkey, but others are returning to battle ISIL.
Unelected representatives quietly iron out logistics of massive TPP and TTIP deals among US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.
Led by students concerned for their future with 'nothing to lose', it remains to be seen who will blink first.