U.S. calls on Syria to play constructive role in Mideast affairs

10:15, March 17, 2010      

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Syrian could be very helpful if Damascus plays positive and constructive role on Middle East peace process, Iraq's security and Lebanon's stability, said U.S. ambassador-designate to Syria Robert Ford on Tuesday.

"The Syrians could be very helpful if they perceive how their interests are best served by working with us and the international community," Ford told a hearing by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations over his nomination on Tuesday.

But now, Damascus has still played "its traditional role as a spoiler" in the Middle East affairs, added Ford, who was nominated last month by the Obama administration to serve as ambassador to Syria.

Although the Syrian government voices its commitment to a comprehensive peace process, a secure Iraq, and a Lebanese government that could exercise sovereignty over all the territory, "when it comes to implementation of steps to achieve these common goals, our two governments remain far apart," said Ford.

Having a sustained and principled dialogue with the Syrian government at the ambassadorial level is in U.S. national interest, but the diplomacy of engagement is a long-term investment, said Ford.

The Bush administration froze diplomatic relations with Syria by recalling its ambassador following the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Washington blamed it on Syria while Damascus denied the accusation.

The Obama administration, since it took office in January, 2009, has been encouraging Syria to play a positive role in the Middle East affairs ranging from Iran's nuclear stalemate, Lebanon's stability, Iraq's security to the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Finding avenues of cooperation with Syria will be a step-by- step process that will require patience and steady commitment to our principles," said Ford.

Source: Xinhua
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