Syrian leader praises Obama outreach
DAMASCUS - Syria’s leader praised President Obama’s outreach for dialogue and invited him to visit Damascus in remarks released yesterday just days after the United States said it plans to return its ambassador to Syria after a four-year absence.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s comments came in a telegram he sent to Obama on the occasion of Independence Day and in an interview he gave to Britain’s Sky News.
Assad’s comments also come a month after Obama outlined in a historic speech in Egypt his determination to broker peace among Israel and its Arab neighbors and improve US relations in the region.
“The values that were adopted by President Obama during his election campaign and after he was elected president are values that the world needs today,’’ Assad said in the telegram, which was carried by state-run news agency SANA.
“It is very important to adopt the principle of dialogue in relations with countries based on respect and mutual interest,’’ Assad said.
In June, US Mideast envoy George Mitchell visited Damascus and met Assad in the highest visit by a US official in more than four years. Mitchell’s visit followed two separate trips in the past few months by senior US officials Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state, and Daniel Shapiro, a Middle East specialist at the White House.
The Obama administration hopes the diplomatic outreach will encourage Syria to play a positive role in both the Mideast peace process and also in Iraq.
In an interview with Sky News, Assad invited Obama to visit Damascus in order to discuss Mideast peace.
“We would like to welcome [Obama] in Syria, definitely. I am very clear about this,’’ Assad said in English. Asked whether such a visit could take place soon, Assad said: “That depends on him.’’
He added with a smile, “I will ask you to convey the invitation to him.’’
Last week, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama plans to send back an ambassador to Syria.