"Barack Obama is set to send his Middle East envoy to Syria in the most concrete sign yet of rapprochement between Washington and Damascus.
The expected trip by George Mitchell, the former Senator heading US efforts on the Arab-Israeli conflict, comes as the president himself prepares to visit the region. Mr Obama will arrive in Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, then travel to Egypt, where he will deliver an eagerly awaited address to the Muslim world. He will subsequently visit Germany and France.....
By contrast, in a 2005 Cairo speech Condoleezza Rice, then secretary of state, urged Egypt to give “its citizens the freedom to choose” by meeting the “objective standards that define every free election”. While Ms Rice announced a break with the 60-year-old policy of pursuing stability in the Middle East, the White House says Mr Obama’s speech will show the US “returning to proven and effective policies and initiatives”.....
By travelling to Syria – he would be the highest-ranking administration official since 2005 to visit – Mr Mitchell would provide a further sign of the Obama administration’s interest in not just a Palestinian-Israeli agreement but also a comprehensive peace involving Syria and Lebanon.
His trip, which could come as early as this week, would also highlight the extent to which the Obama team is prepared to break with previous US policy. ....Mr Obama sent a small delegation to Damascus in March but it did not meet Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president. US officials told Syria a trip by Mr Mitchell would be the next step..."
Sunday, May 31, 2009
In FT, here
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:39 PM