US Senator John Kerry on Saturday met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Syria's SANA news agency reported. Kerry, a former presidential candidate who now chairs the Senate foreign relations committee, is the latest US legislator to visit Damascus this week.
His talks with Assad were set to focus on Syria's support for Iran and regional groups, including the Shiite Hizbullah movement in Lebanon. "We want Syria to respect the political independence of Lebanon, we want Syria to help in the process of resolving issues with Hezbollah and with the Palestinians," Kerry said on Wednesday in Lebanon.
"We want Syria to help... with the disarmament of Hezbollah," added Kerry, according to AFP.
Kerry said in Lebanon that US President Barack Obama's administration plans to adopt a fresh approach in the Middle East "but without any illusion." "Unlike the Bush administration that believed you could simply tell people what to do and walk away and wait for them to do it, we believe you have to engage in a discussion," he said.
"So we are going to renew diplomacy but without any illusion, without any naivety, without any misplaced belief that, just by talking, things will automatically happen."
Another US senator, Benjamin Cardin, visited Damascus this week, urging Syria to end its alliance with Iran and make "significant decisions" to smooth ties with Washington. "Syria has isolated itself by its partnership of terrorism, by providing safe haven to terrorist organisations, its relations with Hamas and (Islamic) Jihad, and a troubled relationship with Iran," Cardin said.