Secretary of US meets with Syrian foreign minister

( Lat ) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met here Thursday with her Syrian counterpart in the first high-level talks between the two governments in more than two years. Rice characterized the 30-minute session, held on the sidelines of a two-day international conference on Iraq at this Egyptian Red Sea resort, as ``businesslike'' and ``very constructive.''

Senior Bush administration officials said she would not hold a widely anticipated meeting with Iran's foreign minister, but that the United States plans to hold direct talks with Tehran in the near future. Conversations will be limited, as were the talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, to the subject of Iraq, they added.

Officials said the decision to end the U.S. isolation of Syria and Iran -- which the administration accuses of facilitating insurgent and militia violence in Iraq -- was made in Washington in the days leading up to the conference. Bush has long rejected calls from administration critics and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to begin talks.

Acknowledging a change in policy, officials characterized it as a response to direct appeals from the Iraqi government and emphasized that it should be seen in the context of the conference. ``Everybody is here making a commitment'' to help Iraq, said one official.

At Thursday's conference sessions, sponsored by the United Nations and the Baghdad government, foreign ministers and representatives from Iraq's neighbors, Europe and Asia pledged increased assistance and debt forgiveness.

Although the United States continues to play the lead role in supporting the Baghdad government, years of uphill efforts, worsening violence on the ground and pressure from Congress and the American public have increased the administration's eagerness to share some of the burden of a problem it calls a threat to world peace and an international responsibility.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt said he was gratified both by the attendance and the commitments made at the Thursday conference, including pledges to forgive roughly $32 billion of Iraq's remaining $56 billion debt from the Saddam Hussein era. In return, neighboring Arab states led by Saudi Arabia have demanded stepped-up political and security reforms and more equitable sharing of oil revenue among Iraq's ethnic and religious groups.

Administration officials said they expected discussions with Tehran would begin in the near future with direct dialogue between the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad and could expand to other levels.

Although Rice had publicly left open the possibility of a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki here, officials said that the Iranian government had indirectly indicated to Washington in recent days that he was not the man, and this was not the place, to begin a new dialogue. Mottaki is not believed to be close to Iran's supreme religious leader or to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

``If I have an opportunity to deliver a message or to reinforce the message that has been delivered here about the need to support Iraq, then obviously I'd take that opportunity,'' Rice said of Iran after the Thursday conference session. ``But we haven't planned and have not asked for a bilateral meeting, nor have they asked us.''

She and Mottaki exchanged pleasantries at a lunch for foreign ministers, State Department officials said.

Administration officials expected they would do the same at a dinner hosted by Egypt. But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said after the dinner that Mottaki apparently left as Rice was arriving and that ``she did not see the Iranian foreign minister.''

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in Washington Thursday that the last U.S.-Iran ``direct high-level meeting . . . that was substantive'' was in December 1977, before the revolution, when President Jimmy Carter visited Iran.

Mottaki made no public comment about Rice. In his speech to the conference session Thursday, he spoke of Iran's close ``cultural and spiritual ties'' to Iraq and recounted all the aid Tehran has given. While Iran shared international concern about Iraq, he said, ``I regret to say that to this day events in Iraq have not helped to diminish apprehension and concerns over the future of Iraq and its innocent people. Quite the opposite.''

The deteriorating security situation, he said, was ``primarily caused by the flawed policies of the occupying powers, which overshadow efforts to deal with this and other issues.''

Bush, Rice and others have repeatedly said that there was no point in talking to Iran or Syria until they changed their behavior, not only in Iraq but in what the United States views as their support of terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere.

The United States formally withdrew its ambassador to Syria and downgraded relations following the February 2005assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and allegations of Syrian involvement.

The subject of Lebanon did not come up during Rice's talks with Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister, administration officials said. ``We talked . . . really only about Iraqi issues,'' Rice said of their 30-minute meeting. ``The Syrians clearly say they believe that stability in Iraq is in their interest, but (their) actions will speak louder than words.''

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said here Thursday that initial reports indicated a decrease in the number of foreign fighters, including suicide bombers, crossing the Syrian border into Iraq during April. ``But I think we have to wait and see whether the trend is indeed a trend.''

``We don't want to have a difficult relationship with Syria,'' Rice said, ``but there needs to be some basis for a better relationship, that there needs to be concrete steps that show that on the Iraqi issue, for instance, that there is actually going to be action. But it was back and forth. I didn't lecture him. He didn't lecture me. It was a quite professional meeting.''

Although Rice left the session through a rear door in the conference center, Moallem exited the main door into a scrum of waiting reporters. They had a ``constructive dialogue,'' he said in Arabic, following ``a decision by the United States to cooperate with Syria. I hope that it will provide future opportunities to achieve security in Iraq.''

The Iraqi government had pushed for U.S. meetings with both Syria and Iran. `` Iraq needs them to reconcile,'' Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Thursday morning outside the conference hall. `` Iraq is a place for settling scores,'' he said of the U.S.-Iran relationship. ``It should be a platform for conciliation.''

The White House last month criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for visiting Damascus and meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Asked why it was wrong for Pelosi but right for her to meet with the Syrians, Rice said, ``I think there's a difference in going to Damascus and having broad-scale discussions about a whole range of issues with Syria, and that was the issue at the time.

``And I think having the secretary of state take an opportunity to speak to the foreign minister of Syria about a concrete problem involving Iraq, at an Iraqi neighbors conference, makes more sense.''

Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, is to depart for the Middle East on May 8 and visit the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

India's posts world record daily COVID cases for second straight day
India's posts world record daily COVID cases for second straight day
13 patients killed in hospital fire in western India
13 patients killed in hospital fire in western India
EU leaders seek to lead climate action in carbon trading
EU leaders seek to lead climate action in carbon trading
Loading Bars
Latest
Azercell’s high-speed mobile internet continues to cover on and under the ground
High provision of reserves positively affects Azerbaijan's sovereign rating - Gazprombank
Azerbaijan establishes Commercialization & Technology Transfer Center
Azerbaijan's MoD shows footage from Zangilan's Najaflar village (VIDEO)
Azerbaijan maintaining stable credit position despite pandemic - Renaissance Capital
Azerbaijani currency rates for Apr. 23
Georgia, Bulgaria aiming for improvement of maritime shipping
Growing share of renewables to cause electricity price volatility
Azerbaijan enters era of fourth industrial revolution based on artificial intelligence - Ministry
India's posts world record daily COVID cases for second straight day
Situation in Azerbaijan’s Ganja city following Armenia's attack – war crime, French lawyer says
Georgia shares data on revenues from excise taxes in 1Q2021
EBRD aims to finance main economic spheres in Georgia
13 patients killed in hospital fire in western India
Azerbaijan applies world experience in construction of digital cities
Russia and Azerbaijan interested in Georgian mussels and oysters
Lending to legal entities, individuals in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan drops
Georgia reveals volume of taxes, paid by its citizens
Azerbaijan discloses data on 1Q2021 oil export to Israel
EU leaders seek to lead climate action in carbon trading
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter logs another successful flight on Mars
More than 874,000 COVID-19 infections detected worldwide over past 24 hours
Iran cuts number of centrifuges enriching uranium to 60% purity, IAEA report says
3 rockets land near Baghdad airport in Iraq
Israel reports 189 new COVID-19 cases, 837,668 in total
Eight missing in Shanghai factory fire
Georgian FM meets Turkish counterpart in Bucharest
UN Environment, WHO support Georgia in deciding on regulation on lead paint
Uzbekistan’s business activity index sharply increases
55 new cases of "double mutation" variant found in UK in latest week
Azerbaijani athlete reaches final of European Artistic Gymnastics Championships
Azerbaijan's banking sector wraps up 1Q2021 with profit
Internet data transmission speed slightly down in Azerbaijan
National Bank of Georgia sells funds at foreign exchange auction
Georgia sees increase in vegetables export
State Customs Committee discloses export of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Georgia
Turkmen Ministry of Agriculture extends tender for purchase of necessary goods
Flydubai to resume flights at Georgian Batumi International Airport
Polymetal International boosts gold output in Kazakhstan, Russia
Brazil reports 3,472 more deaths
Kazakh gas supply company opens tender for construction of operational base
Georgia unveils data on exports of fruits and nuts in 1Q2021
Azerbaijan plans to increase production of fish and fish products
Turkey’s export of furniture and timber to Turkmenistan down
Kyrgyzstan ranks second in world in terms of cheapest mobile internet
Iran's annual exports of dried fruit, nuts grows %42
Georgia opens 69-th online session of UN Economic Commission for Europe
World community must know about Armenian atrocities in Azerbaijan – French lawyer
PM Modi announces India-US partnership on climate, clean energy
Azerbaijan Airlines to start operating special flights to London
Building of Azerbaijan’s Mud Volcanoes Tourism Complex to look like crater from above
Strengthening confidence-building measures in Azerbaijan-Armenia relations most important - Russian MFA
Georgia publishes budget performance report of 1Q2021
French lawyers arrive in Azerbaijan’s Ganja city, shelled by Armenia during war (PHOTO)
EIB financing helped to launch 60 satellites into space in 2020
EIB likely to support dev’t of renewable energy sphere in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens for Apr. 22
Azerbaijan confirms 2,047 more COVID-19 cases, 2,610 recoveries
Baku entitled to demand compensation from Armenia – Russian political analyst
IATA revises 2021 forecasts of world airlines losses
Azerbaijan to open tourism bureau in Israel
Belarus to supply components for Azerbaijan to assemble tractors in 2021
Several more Russian airlines allowed to operate flights to Baku
EIB exploring new project ideas to support digitalization across Eastern Partnership
SOCAR won't participate in sales of Antipinski Refinery’s property
NCOC talks Marine Access Channels Project plans at Kazakh Kashagan field
Azerbaijan's Aghdam in complete ruins - French lawyer
Uzbekistan’s Central Bank notes decrease of inflation rate
EAG working on assessing Turkmenistan's compliance with FATF recommendations
Uzbekistan GTL to buy pipes via tender
Kazakhstan’s KazTransOil to pay out dividends for 2020
Economy Ministry shares data on revenues from Azerbaijan's non-oil and gas sector
Turkmenistan elected member of Executive Board of UN Entity for Gender Equality, Empowerment of Women
Historical monuments in Azerbaijan's Aghdam vandalized - French criminal justice attorney
Kazakhstan’s KazTransOil decreases oil transshipment volumes in 1Q2021
Turkmenistan increases processing of agricultural products
Turkmen company exports tomatoes to Austria
Autoclave gas blocks plant construction launched in Kazakhstan's Turkestan
Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan launches new communication facilities in 1Q2021
Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan sees decrease in insurance portfolio for 1Q2021
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price again falling
Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan State Statistical Committee shares data on reconstruction of roads
Equinor to electrify over 35% of its total oil & gas output base by 2025
Russia leads among countries exporting goods to Azerbaijan
Iran’s CBI allocates funds for import of essential products
Output from Georgian Enguri HPP to increase after reconstruction - Director of Enguri HPP
Azerbaijan shares footage from Jabrayil's Shahverdili village (VIDEO)
Tesla opens Tel Aviv pop-up store
Russian airline receives permission to operate flights to Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan’s 3M2021 retail trade turnover of small business decreases
Number of bank accounts increases in Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan
American Airlines loss narrows as travel demand picks up
Azerbaijan jointly with Russia sets up car manufacturing enterprise
Number of innovative companies worldwide grows
Kazakhstan boosts production of coal, some petroleum products
Swiss president heads for damage-control EU summit
Etihad Airways to stop operating Boeing 777-300ER jets this year
Installation of info boards on roads leading to Azerbaijan's liberated lands continues (VIDEO)
French human rights activists visiting Azerbaijan's Aghdam (PHOTO)
Georgia increases imports of tomatoes from Azerbaijan
All news