· US praises Damascus's counter-insurgency effort
Ian Black in Sharm el-Sheikh
Friday May 4, 2007
Efforts to stabilise Iraq by involving its neighbours in talks brought Condoleezza Rice together with Syria's foreign minister yesterday for an ice-breaking meeting but talks with her Iranian opposite number, Manouchehr Mottaki, failed to happen.
The US secretary of state's session with Walid Moualem on the margins of an international conference on Iraq followed rare praise from the US military that Syria was doing more to seal its border with Iraq to foreign fighters joining the Sunni insurgency.
The high-profile diplomatic encounter in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was the first of its kind since Syria, Iran's only Arab ally, was accused of being behind the murder of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. It denies the charge and is resisting calls for a UN tribunal to investigate the killing.
Farid Ghadry, from the Syrian opposition, has sent us the following opinion piece on the Rice meeting, posted on the Reform Party of Syria website.
A Safe Iraq is the Purpose
Farid Ghadry, RPS,Washington DC
May 4, 2007
With Iraq becoming the center of gravity of US foreign policy in the Middle East, the Syrian opposition is witnessing some disturbing events taking place that look like a reversal of the past policy by the US in its approach to dealing with the Assad regime. But a closer look may reveal a different perspective...
After the meeting yesterday, the White House spokesman Tony Snow downplayed its importance when he said: "Any conversations would not be bilateral discussions. They would not be formal negotiations." He added: "The one and only topic, again, in Sharm el- Sheikh is to say: 'It is time now to step forward and support the government of Iraq. ' That is the strong message that is being sent." It is obvious from the narrow goal that precipitated this meeting to take place that Iraq and only Iraq was the central issue...
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