US 'to send ambassador to Syria'

State department denies decision to increase ties is related to unrest in Iran.

    Mitchell, right, said he hoped to improve "bilateral relations" with Assad's Syria [AFP]

    In depth
    "We have been having more and more discussions and we need to have someone there to engage."

    He said the decision to increase direct ties was not related to the election crisis in Iran, although the Obama administration has maintained that engagement with the Syrian regime could weaken Syria's strategic alliance with Iran.

    'Unprecedented engagement'

    Mustafa said his country had not formally been notified of the decision, but told Al Jazeera such a move would reflect a genuine desire by the US to engage Syria and correct past actions of the previous administration under George Bush, the former US president.

    Mustafa, pictured, said the decision is "good for the US, good for Syria and good for the region"
    "I have heard these reports in many news outlets here in the United States but it has not been relayed to us in any official way ... but it seems to be true," Mustafa said.

    "It is good for the United States to have an ambassador in Syria .. to enhance bilateral relations and it's also a reflection on the erroneous ways of the Bush administration."

    Washington withdrew its ambassador from Syria in 2005 in protest against the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister.

    Under international pressure, Syria withdrew soldiers from Lebanon following the killing and has denied any involvement.

    US-Syria talks

    Relations between Syria and the US improved after Obama took office in January and US officials said he was committed to seeking a peace deal between Syria and Israel as part of an overall Middle East peace deal.

    The Syrian government, however, remains under US sanctions, partly because of what the Washington describes as a Syrian role in helping foreign fighters infiltrate Iraq.

    The decision to appoint a US ambassador follows a series of recent visits to Damascus by high-level US military and diplomatic delegations, including a recent visit by George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy.

    Mitchell's visit took place in the wake of Obama's Cairo speech to the Muslim world, where he pledged to pursue a broad-based, comprehensive peace agreement in the region.

    "All of theses talks, the quality of the discussion and the level of engagement has been unprecedented, at least for the last eight years," Mustafa said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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