U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns in Damascus. As the American diplomat meets with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, it signaled a thaw in relations between the two nations and comes as the U.S. prepares to send a new envoy to Syria.
Burns spoke at a news conference.
[William Burns, U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs]:
"The White House announced yesterday that Robert Ford will be the next American Ambassador to Syria if he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate. That is a clear sign, after five years without an American Ambassador in Damascus, of America's readiness to improve relations and to cooperate in the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis with progress on all tracks of the peace process, and in the pursuit of regional peace and stability."
The United States withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in 2005 after the assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Syria's foes in Lebanon accused Damascus of involvement, a charge Syria denied.
Relations between Washington and Damascus have improved since President Barack Obama took office some 13 months ago. Analysts say Washington is hoping to pull Syria away from Iran and get its help in stabilizing neighboring Iraq.