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After a hiatus of 4 years, the United States has decided to send an ambassador back to Syria. U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. is prepared "to move forward with Syria to advance our interests through direct and continuing dialogue":
"We continue to have concerns about Syria's role in this region. And we think one way to address those concerns is to have an ambassador in Damascus."
The U.S. withdrew the American ambassador to Syria in 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many Lebanese believe that Syria was involved in the murder. At the time, Syria had more than 30 thousand troops in Lebanon in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559. In recalling its ambassador, the U.S. voiced objection to Syria's continued military presence in Lebanon and expressed concern at the Syrian government's refusal to adequately address such issues as the presence of international terrorists groups in Syria and the use of Syrian territory by foreign fighters and insurgents in Iraq.
Since that time, Syrian troops have left Lebanon, and, according to U.S. military officials, Syria has taken action to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that in recent months the U.S. and Syrian diplomats have met for a series of meetings. The decision to send an American ambassador back to Damascus, he says, "Strongly reflects the administration's recognition of the role Syria plays, and the hope of the role that the Syrian government can play constructively to promote peace and stability in the region." Mr. Gibbs added that the move in another step in President Barack Obama's policy "to be more fully engaged in the region.