Daily Israel Report

Obama Flexes Muscles in Mideast, Resumes Ties with Damascus

Obama is resuming diplomatic ties with Syria as he aims for a regional peace, which in Syria’s eyes includes Israel’s surrender of the Golan.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/24/2009, 8:44 AM

Israel news photo

U.S. President Barack Obama is resuming diplomatic ties with Syria after a four-year hiatus as he aims for a regional peace in the Middle East. Syrian President Bashar Assad has conditioned peace with Israel on its regaining sovereignty of the strategic Golan Heights. Slightly more than half of the population on the Golan comprises Jews, and most of the remainder are Druze.

Israeli Foreign Minister spokesman Andy David told Israel National News Wednesday morning that the move by the U.S. is part of President Obama’s policies of “talking with the enemy” and that the issue of the Golan Heights is not a top American priority.

He noted that the return of an envoy does not necessarily mean an improvement in relations, and that the U.S. wants to have a more direct influence on the issues of the inquiry into the murder of former anti-Syrian Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the struggling economy in Syria and its support of Iraq rebels.

Imad Mustafa, Syria’s ambassador in Washington, welcomed the news of the return of an American counterpart to Damascus. The U.S. recalled its envoy from Syria four years ago, following the mammoth bomb attack that killed Hariri. Syria has been suspected of being behind the assassination.

"It's in our interests to have an ambassador in Syria," a senior Obama administration official told CNN. "We've been having more and more discussions, and we need to have someone there to engage," he said. The government has not made an official announcement, and no one has yet been named to serve in the post.

Syria remains on the American list of states that support terror, but relations between the two countries have been closer since President Obama took office in January.