Pelosi dismisses criticism of Syria trip

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Syria on Tuesday, leading a congressional delegation on a trip that the White House has said could send the wrong signal to a state it claims sponsors terrorists.

Pelosi dismisses criticism of Syria trip

 

Pelosi, who was met at Damascus airport by Syria's foreign minister, is the highest-ranking American politician to visit Syria since relations began to deteriorate in 2003.

The United States accuses Syria of interfering in Iraq and Lebanon and sponsoring terrorists charges Syria denies. A White House spokeswoman has described Pelosi's visit to Syria as a "really bad idea."

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Pelosi, D-Calif., did not make any comment on arrival and headed for a tour of downtown Damascus. She is scheduled to meet President Bashar Assad and other Syrian officials on Wednesday.

Earlier Tuesday, Pelosi held talks with Mahmoud Abbas in his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian president told her he wanted to use his meetings with the Israeli prime minister as an avenue for restarting peace talks.

Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged during a visit last month by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to hold meetings every two weeks. No dates have so far been announced.

Olmert has said he will not talk to Abbas about ingredients of a final peace deal, such as the borders of a future Palestinian state, until Palestinians stop firing rockets into Israel from Gaza and release an Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for the past nine months.

Abbas has pushed for the meetings to focus on the thorny issues underlying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a stance he reiterated Sunday with Pelosi.

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"The president stressed that ... without a political horizon, there can be no peaceful coexistence," Abbas' aide Rafik Husseini said.

Palestinian media crews boycotted Tuesday's meeting as a protest against the Palestinian government's failure to free a BBC journalist kidnapped in Gaza on March 12.

The BBC says it has received no word on the whereabouts or condition of Alan Johnston, 44. No demands have been issued by the kidnappers. Johnston has been held longer than any of the other 11 journalists kidnapped in Gaza over the past three years. All of the previous hostages were released unharmed, most within days.

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Pelosi is traveling with a delegation of U.S. lawmakers, including the first Muslim member of Congress, Keith Ellison, D-Minn. The delegation is to next visit Syria.

Pelosi has said she will tell Syrian leaders that Israel will talk peace with them only if Syria stops supporting Palestinian. She has said she will also talk to the Syrians about Iraq, their role in neighboring Lebanon and their support for Lebanon's Hezbollah.

The Democrat has shrugged off White House criticism of her visit to Damascus, saying Monday she had "great hope" for reviving U.S. relations with Syria and changing its behavior.

"It's interesting because three of our colleagues, who are all Republicans, were in Syria yesterday and I didn't hear the White House speaking out about that," Pelosi said, referring to the Sunday meeting of Reps. Frank Wolf , Joe Pitts and Robert Aderholt with Assad in Damascus.

"I think that it was an excellent idea for them to go," said Pelosi. "And I think it's an excellent idea for us to go, as well."

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino stressed Monday that the Bush administration objected to all visits to Syria.

"We ask that people not go on these trips," she said. "We discourage it. Full stop."

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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