U.S. Lawmakers in Damascus

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DAMASCUS, Syria - Following meetings with Israeli officials on Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers arrived in Damascus to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad and other government officials on Thursday morning.

The delegation, led by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, includes Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Congressman Tim Waltz (D-MN).

Kaufman and Waltz will meet with Assad Thursday morning, Syrian officials reported.

"Our country is looking to cooperate with the United States for the sake of the security and stability of the region," Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said on the Syrian State television last Friday evening.

"If there's a realization that what the Bush administration did with regard to the Arab countries and the issues that concern them was a mistake, then this mistake should be corrected not by words, but by deeds," Moallem said.

The foreign minister's declaration was in stark contrast to his remarks in early May, following a visit by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East affairs Jerry Feltman, which prompted U.S. lawmakers to renew sanctions against Syria.

On Wednesday, the delegation met with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Jerusalem.

"In our conversations today with the prime minister, the president and the defense minister, I was reminded of the centrality of the strategic alliance between the United States and Israel," Senator Casey told reporters.

"We may have tactical differences from time to time, but our broad objectives are based on shared values and an unshakeable bond between our two peoples," he said.

"We focused our discussions on the shared threat posed by Iran's nuclear program and the need to revitalize progress on a two-state solution," the senator said.

"I am confident our two governments will coordinate closely in the coming months on these two priorities," he said.

Source: Haaretz, political.news

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