Clinton set to meet with Syrian FM in New York

US Secretary of State will hold rare meeting with Syrian counterpart, in sign of increasing US interest in reviving Israeli-Syrian peace efforts.

Hillary Clinton speaking to press (photo credit: Associated Press)
Hillary Clinton speaking to press
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will hold a rare meeting with her Syrian counterpart Monday, in a sign of intensifying US interest in reviving Israeli-Syrian peace efforts.
Her meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in New York on the sidelines of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly is due to be followed by Syrian Vice Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad’s own trip to Washington later in the week.
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“The foreign minister’s visit to New York provides an opportunity for the secretary to continue our ongoing discussion of peace and regional stability with the Syrian government,” a State Department official said.
“By definition, a comprehensive Middle East peace will require an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Syria and Israel, Lebanon and Israel and the full normalization of relations between Israel and its neighbors.”
Miqdad made a similar trip to Washington last year and will this time visit with several senior State Department officials, though the meetings have yet to be finalized.
The discussions, according to the State Department official, “will focus on our bilateral relationship and on our efforts to facilitate a comprehensive Middle East peace, in which Syria plays an important role.”
The US has been eager to ensure that Syria doesn’t play the role of spoiler in the direct negotiations recently undertaken by the Palestinians and Israel.
With visits to Damascus and now in the US, officials want to encourage Syria to move back toward the peace process. Syria broke off indirect talks with Israel during the Gaza war in December 2008.