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Photo by: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
McCain in J'lem: Boost US effort to oust Assad
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
19/01/2013
US senator, bipartisan delegation meet President Peres, discuss Syria, Iranian threat, US-Israel strategic ties.
 
“All of us believe that Bashar Assad’s departure is inevitable, but we don’t know how long it will take. Some of us would like to see the United States more engaged in that effort,” Sen. John McCain said in Jerusalem on Saturday night.

McCain, who was the Republican presidential nominee in the 2008 US election, is leading a bipartisan delegation on a tour of the region. They met with President Shimon Peres at his official residence after having visited Egypt, Afghanistan and Jordan.

McCain said that the delegation had visited a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan on Saturday morning and had seen thousands and thousands of people who had fled the brutal Assad regime. Some of the refugees were seriously injured.

In welcoming the delegation, Peres said that the visit was a declaration to the rest of the region that America remains engaged in the great march for freedom, democracy and peace.

There are currently two critical issues in the region, said Peres. One is Iran and the other is Syria. Israel appreciates the American position on Iran, namely not to allow it to become a nuclear power, he said.

The situation in Syria, he said, “is causing us a great deal of sorrow.”

Peres has been pained by television images of the wholesale slaughter of Syrian children and has mentioned this on several occasions when speaking to foreign dignitaries.

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He also referred to elections which have taken place in various countries in the Middle East, and said that while they served to put problems on the table, they did not furnish solutions.

“You came at a demanding and meaningful time,” he told McCain.

Both Peres and McCain spoke of Israel as an island of democracy.

Accompanying McCain were: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (RNew Hampshire), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (DConnecticut), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Christian Brose, a senior adviser on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro.

McCain was in the forefront of the successful effort to block the nomination of Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

At the meeting with Peres, the delegation discussed the latest developments related to the Iranian threat, major challenges confronting Israel today, specifically with regard to neighboring countries, and the strengthening of bilateral strategic ties between Israel and the US.
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