1570) Pelosi Follows In Footsteps Of Turkish PM Erdogan Despite White House Objections

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met Syrian President Bashar Assad yesterday for talks criticized by the White House as undermining American efforts to isolate the hard-line Arab country.

The meeting came one day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a meeting with the Syrian President which proved thawing relations with two neighboring countries. . .

U.S. President George W. Bush has said Pelosi's trip signals that the Assad government is part of the international mainstream when it is not. The United States says Syria allows Iraqi Sunni insurgents to operate from its territory, backs the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups and is trying to destabilize the Lebanese government. Syria denies the allegations.

Erdogan and Assad on Tuesday discussed the situation in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict, as part of Ankara's efforts to play a greater role in the Middle East.

Turkey has been trying to improve ties with neighbor Syria after a chill that lasted until 1999. Ankara previously accused Damascus of harboring the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and even threatened Syria with war.

With this move, Turkey risks further deterioration of Turkish-American relations which is said to be below zero since March 1, 2003, when Turkish Parliament refused to pass a government motion allowing the U.S. use Turkish air base for its Iraqi offensive.

Turkey is a U.S. ally and member of the NATO military alliance, but it is also a Muslim-majority country that has close ties with most Middle Eastern states. It also enjoys friendly, but occasionally tense, relations with Israel.

After Erdogan's move, the California Democrat Pelosi and accompanying members of Congress began their day by holding separate talks with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa and then met Assad, who hosted them for lunch after their talks.

Pelosi's visit to Syria was the latest challenge to the White House by congressional Democrats, who are taking a more assertive role in influencing policy in the Middle East and the Iraq war.

"A lot of people have gone to see President Assad ... and yet we haven't seen action. He hasn't responded," Bush told reporters soon after Pelosi arrived in Damascus on Tuesday.

Syria has praised Pelosi for defying the White House. The state-run Syria Times called her a "brave lady" and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem was quoted as saying Pelosi and other members of Congress were "welcome" in Syria.

"Better late than never," al-Moallem told the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anba in an interview published yesterday. He said the visits were taking place because Americans and Europeans had realized that their policy of trying to isolate Syria had failed.

However, the Syrian ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, was quoted as saying Syria was "wary of the sudden U.S. openness" and would respond cautiously.

Democrats have argued that the U.S. should engage its top rivals in the Mideast - Iran and Syria - to make headway in easing crises in Iraq, Lebanon and the Israeli-Arab peace process. Last year, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended talks with the two countries.

Pelosi has said she hoped to rebuild lost confidence between Washington and Damascus and would tell Syrian leaders that Israel will talk peace with them only if Syria stops supporting Palestinian militants. She said she also would raise Syria's roles in Iraq and Lebanon and their support for the Hezbollah militant group.

Relations between the U.S. and Syria reached a low point in early 2005 when Washington withdrew its ambassador to Damascus to protest the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many Lebanese blamed Syria - which had troops in Lebanon at the time - for the assassination. Damascus denied involvement.

Washington has since succeeded in largely isolating Damascus, with its European and Arab allies shunning Assad. The last high-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in January 2005.

The isolation, however, has begun to crumble in recent months, with visits by U.S. lawmakers and some European officials.

The New Anatolian with AP / Ankara
05 April 2007

Pelosi Playing With Fire !!!
Pelosi is an Armenian supporter and a lot of Armenians live in Syria (proof that genocide did not take place.. as if it had what are these Armenians doing there then??!!)

so what is her game? To kill two birds with one stone?? ie to kick Bush in the wrong place and get Syrians to play an even more anti-Turkish melodies? but what happens to American interests overall?

if playing with fire was the word, we are witnessing a lady playing with fire ..

by the way Turkish Premier Tayyib Erdogan is also in Syria now (Halep-Aleppo) opening the Halep Olympic stadium where Fenerbahce is playing a Syrian football team..

British Social Engineering

DAMASCUS, Syria (CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived Tuesday in the Syrian capital, where she is expected to tackle an issue complicating the U.S. mission in the Middle East --Damascus' alleged support for militants in Iraq and Lebanon.

Though her visit conjured a strong rebuke by the White House, Syria seemed to welcome the 67-year-old California Democrat.

After arriving in Damascus, Pelosi visited a centuries-old market district, where she mingled with Syrians. She also visited the Omayyad mosque in Old Damascus, which is considered one of the most sacred sites in the capital.

The Syrian media are hailing her visit as a potential breakthrough in icy U.S.-Syrian relations, with the Syria Times calling her a "brave lady on an invaluable mission."

Even the state-run news agency harped on the importance of Pelosi's visit. Headlines from the Syrian Arab News Agency read: "World and Arab newspapers stress importance of Pelosi's visit to Syria" and "Pelosi describes her visit to Damascus as important."

The House speaker is scheduled to meet with President Bashar Al-Assad on Wednesday, making her the highest-ranking American politician to meet with a Syrian leader in more than 12 years. In 1994, President Clinton sat down with Al-Assad's father, the late Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad.

President Bush admonished Pelosi in a Rose Garden question-and-answer session Tuesday, calling her trip "counterproductive."

"Going to Syria sends mixed signals, signals in the region and, of course, mixed signals to President Assad," Bush said. "And by that I mean, you know, photo opportunities and/or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they're part of the mainstream of the international community, when in fact, they're a state sponsor of terror."

He further accused Syria of destabilizing the Lebanese government and turning a blind eye to foreign fighters flowing across its border into Iraq.

American and European officials have met with Al-Assad in the past, "and yet we haven't seen any action," Bush said. "The best way to meet with a leader like Assad or people from Syria is in the larger context of trying to get the global community to help change his behavior."

Bush repeatedly has rejected the prospect of talking with Syria despite a December report by the Iraq Study Group that recommended multilateral diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, as a means of improving stability in the war-torn nation.

During a stop in Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday, Pelosi said her trip is intended as a bid to build confidence between Washington and Damascus. Pelosi stood by the U.S. assertion that Syria supports groups that the United States considers terrorist organizations.

"Of course the role of Syria in Iraq, the role of Syria supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, the role of Syria in so many respects -- we think there could be a vast improvement," she said. "We think it's a good idea to establish the facts, to hopefully build some confidence between us. We have no illusions, but we have great hope."

Syria, which since 1979 has been on the U.S. State Department's list of nations that sponsor terror, acknowledges that it provides funding for the Palestinian and Lebanese militant organizations, but it denies providing either group with arms.

Another topic on Pelosi's agenda will be the plight of Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanon's Hezbollah in July. The incident sparked a war with Israel, and both Washington and Israel accused Syria of arming and funding Hezbollah during the conflict.

Syria was a major military and political force in Lebanon for almost 30 years until after Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri's assassination in 2005. A wave of protests called the "Cedar Revolution" ensued, and Syria was forced to pull its roughly 15,000 troops out of Lebanon.

U.N. investigators linked al-Hariri's killing to Syria and its Lebanese allies, but Damascus has denied any role in the slaying, which it says it condemns.

Pelosi and her delegation visited officials in Israel on Sunday, Lebanon on Monday and the West Bank on Tuesday, according to media reports.

The delegation includes one Republican, David Hobson of Ohio. Other Democratic members include Reps. Henry Waxman and Tom Lantos of California, Louise Slaughter of New York, Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim to serve in Congress.

CNN's Brent Sadler contributed to this report.


Pelosi defies White House, meets Assad
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, against White House wishes, to urge Syria to help stabilize Iraq and stop supporting Washington's adversaries in the Middle East. Pelosi is the third most senior US official.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, against White House wishes, to urge Syria to help stabilize Iraq and stop supporting Washington's adversaries in the Middle East. Pelosi, the third most senior US official, sat next to Assad in front of cameras before starting a meeting at his hilltop palace overlooking Damascus. The White House has described her visit as a bad idea.

A member of Pelosi's delegation said she would raise during the meeting Syria's suspected support for anti-US rebels in Iraq and its backing for Palestinian movement Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Syrian officials said Damascus wants to help Washington achieve an honorable withdrawal from Iraq but in return the United States must press Israel to return the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Pelosi's visit won't be enough to remove all obstacles in the form of normalizing American-Syrian relations, but we believe that the dialogue she is conducting in Damascus is very important, government newspaper Tishreen said. "Syria's position is rejection of the Iraq war. We are concerned about Iraq's stability and unity because Syria is the main casualty of the chaos, violence and terrorism there," Tishreen said. The newspaper was referring to 1.2 million Iraqi refugees, who, according to Syrian estimates, have fled to Syria since the US.-led invasion four years ago.

Pelosi, on a Middle East tour, said on Monday she had no illusions but great hope for the talks which she said would focus on the fight against terrorism, Iraq and Lebanon.

The White House has condemned Pelosi's plans to visit Syria and meet Assad, who the United States has accused of helping destabilize the region, saying it sent the wrong message to the Syrian leader. The US embassy hosted a big reception for Pelosi on Tuesday night that was attended by three Syrian government officials as well as dissidents who said they were not allowed enough access to Pelosi, who championed the cause of human rights in China. Pelosi has shrugged off the White House's criticism of the trip, saying it was a good opportunity to gather the facts and build confidence.

Reuters Damascus


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