US skeptical about French trip to Syria

19th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2007 (AFP) - The United States expressed skepticism Wednesday over France's decision to send a top diplomat for talks with Syria, Washington's arch enemy.

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2007 (AFP) - The United States expressed skepticism Wednesday over France's decision to send a top diplomat for talks with Syria, Washington's arch enemy.

"There have been a number of different attempts at outreach by a number of different countries and different envoys to convince Syria that it should change its behavior," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

"We are still waiting for that to happen."

Paris sent ex-envoy to Syria Jean-Claude Cousseran to Damascus this week in the first high-level contact between the two countries in more than two years.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner described the move as a "sign on the road of conciliation" with Syria, with which relations were frozen since the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005.

Syria has been implicated in a UN probe over the Hariri assassination despite its repeated denials.

McCormack also accused Syria of being a "source of instability throughout the region in its support for Palestinian rejectionist groups and allowing foreign fighters to use its territory to go into Iraq.

"Obviously we all want to see Syria reorient its policies and change its behavior in the region. Thus far, they have chosen not to play a positive role," he said.

But McCormack emphasized that the United States and France were united in promoting political and economic reform in Lebanon and bringing to justice those responsible for Hariri's murder.

"There is no question about that and France has been an excellent partner on this issue," he said.

"So this has been an excellent partnership on behalf of those Lebanese people who want to retake Lebanese independence from 20 to 30 years of Syrian occupation," he added.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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