US officials find ‘common ground’ in Syria

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – The United States wants to see “forward momentum” on peace talks between Syria and Israel and  believes Syria could help Middle East stability, a US official  said after high-level talks in Damadscus yesterday.

In a change of tone after years of animosity with Syria, Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, said he did not present Syrian officials with “benchmarks” to meet and exchanged concerns.

Dan Shapiro of the White House’s National Security Council attended the meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem. The two are the first senior US officials to visit Syria since Jan. 2005.

“We found a lot of common ground. There were no subjects that were taboo … It is our view that Syria can play an  important and constructive role in the region,” Feltman said  after the meeting.

Asked whether Washington would become involved in suspended peace talks between Syria and Israel, Feltman told reporters  that “comprehensive peace” including a deal between the two  sides was an objective of the new administration of US  President Barack Obama.

“We do want to see forward momentum on the Syrian-Israeli  track at the time when the parties are ready for this,” he said.
“We want to achieve results. I am sure that Syria will want  to achieve results but let’s not expect that things are going to  change dramatically from today until tomorrow,” he said.

Feltman and Shapiro did not meet President Bashar al-Assad.

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