Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Return of US Ambassador to Damascus Improves Bilateral Relations

01-Jul-09
By IWPR
Syrian newspapers welcomed the United States’ decision to send an ambassador to Syria after a four-year hiatus in relations between Washington and Damascus.



The White House announced on June 24 that the US would send an ambassador to Damascus in “recognition of the role Syria plays”.



Washington withdrew its ambassador from Syria in 2005 to express “outrage” at the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, a crime widely blamed on Damascus. Syria has denied any involvement in the killing.



A June 29 opinion piece in the official Al-Baath newspaper said that the return of the American ambassador to Syria would open communication channels between the two countries and reflect positively on the entire region.



The writer, Shawkat Abu Fakher, said that the US had recognised the importance of the Syrian role in the region.



He said that the coming days and weeks would witness more and more dialogue among the Europeans, the Syrians and the Americans to try to pull the Middle East out of its current crisis, an apparent reference to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and insecurity in Iraq.



A June 28 op-ed piece in the pro-government daily Al-Watan also said that the return of the US ambassador in addition to the recent visits of US delegations to Damascus were a sign that a new phase in relations between the two countries was starting.



But the author, Khorshid Dalli, said that it would be difficult to witness a quick improvement in contacts between the two states mainly because US foreign policy was tied to Israeli interests in the region.



He said that the US would still follow the French model of opening up to Syria because the West had realised the benefits of engaging Damascus in solving the region’s problems.



He concluded that the re-establishment of normal diplomatic ties was a “real step” towards the creation of an atmosphere of trust between the two states and the achievement of peace in the Middle East.