U.S. meets Syria at Sharm El-Sheikh

04May07

It lasted 30 minutes.

After US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Syria’s foreign Minister Walid Mouallem ended the meeting, the press rushed to depict initial reactions.

Rice’s meeting with Moallem marked the first such high-level talks since the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The U.S. withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in protest and has given a cold shoulder to the Syrian government since. Syria denies it had anything to do with the killing.Iraq it seems was the major topic of discussion.

I didn’t lecture him and he didn’t lecture me,” said the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Thursday after the first Cabinet-level talks in years between the countries.

American officials maintained Thursday night that they do not plan to trade away Lebanon for Syria’s help in Iraq. “The Lebanese people have no better friend than the United States,” said Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman.

Rice said the talks were limited to Iraqi security. “I made clear, we don’t want to have a difficult relationship with Syria, but we need to have some basis for a better relationship.

“We hope the Americans are serious because we in Damascus are serious about improving relations with America,” said Moallem.

It’s a start,” Moallem said after the 30-minute session.

N.B. Due to requests from readers, the following should be noted: “Syrian officials said that Ms. Rice did not raise the issue of the Hariri killing or the plans to form an international tribunal to hear evidence in the case.” – NY Times

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