Bush criticizes House Speaker visit to Syria
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Damascus on Tuesday, the highest-ranking American politician to visit the country since ties started to deteriorate four years ago. Nancy Pelosi arrived in Damascus on Tuesday, the highest-ranking American politician to visit the country since ties started to deteriorate four years ago. On his part, President Bush criticized the trip, saying it sends mixed signals to President Bashar Assad.
The United States accuses Syria of interfering in Iraq and Lebanon and sponsoring terrorists.
Pelosi is set to meet Assad and other Syrian officials on Wednesday. "A lot of people have gone to see President Assad....and yet we haven't seen action. He hasn't responded," Bush told reporters. According to the AP, he said Assad had not reined in violent elements of Hamas and Hizbullah as requested by the international community and had acted to destabilize the democratically elected government of Lebanon.
"Sending delegations doesn't work. It's simply been counterproductive," Bush noted.
Pelosi has said she will tell Syrian leaders that Israel will talk peace with them only if Damascus stops supporting armed Palestinian groups. She has added she will also talk to the Syrians about Iraq, their role in neighboring Lebanon and their support for Lebanon's Hizbullah.
The Democrat has shrugged off White House criticism of her visit to Damascus, saying Monday she had "great hope" for reviving U.S. ties with Syria and changing its behavior. "It's interesting because three of our colleagues, who are all Republicans, were in Syria yesterday and I didn't hear the White House speaking out about that," Pelosi said. "I think that it was an excellent idea for them to go," said Pelosi. "And I think it's an excellent idea for us to go, as well."
Earlier Tuesday, Pelosi held talks with Mahmoud Abbas in his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian president told her he wanted to use his meetings with the Israeli prime minister as an avenue for restarting peace talks.
"The president stressed that ... without a political horizon, there can be no peaceful coexistence," Abbas' aide Rafik Husseini said.
Palestinian media teams boycotted Tuesday's meeting as a protest against the Palestinian government's failure to release a BBC journalist kidnapped in Gaza on March 12.