Senior French officials hold talks with Assad
Two senior French envoys held "constructive" talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday aimed at boosting diplomatic relations which soured over the crisis in Lebanon. The meeting in Damascus came ahead of a planned visit next month by Assad to Paris.
Jean-David Levitte, chief diplomatic advisor to President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Claude Gueant, secretary general of Sarkozy's office, held talks with Assad and then Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. The meeting with Assad was "useful and constructive" and focused on diplomatic ties and Middle East developments, namely Lebanon and Israeli-Syrian track of the peace process," the official SANA news agency said.
The talks "reflected a common view on the need to reinforce French-Syrian relations to serve the interests of both countries," SANA added.
Relations were damaged by charges of Syrian involvement in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.
After the election in May of a president in Lebanon under a power-sharing deal between rival politicial leaders, Sarkozy moved to restore high-level contacts with Syria. He invited Assad to attend a July 14 national day military parade in Paris after a summit in the French capital to launch a new Mediterranean Union.