The US government says its highest-level visit to Syria was “useful”.
Bush sent Ellen Sauerbrey, the US assistant secretary of state for refugees and migration, to talk to Bashar.
US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said they had direct talks. A representative from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was expected to attend, so the US could say the US and Syria didn’t have direct bilateral talks.
Sauerbrey was in Damascus to talk about the Iraqi refugees. The Syrians “expressed their willingness to continue hosting displaced Iraqis, although noting the burden that this does place on them and on their system,” Casey said.
Bush asked his ambassador to leave Damascus two days after Rafiq Al-Hariri’s assasination, clearly trying to pin the blame on Syria. But it is important to remember that the ambassador was just ‘recalled’, and not ‘withdrawn’. If an ambassador is ‘withdrawn’ it means diplomatic ties are officially broken. An ambassador can be recalled to receive instructions in Washington, to do official business back home – or in this case, to apply pressure on Damascus.
It is just that this recall has lasted two years, and not one week.
It is an important point, and one that AP has slipped up on again and again.