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Damascus checking Washington's temperature

July 13, 2010 at 10:39 AM   |   Comments

DAMASCUS, Syria, July 13 (UPI) -- Damascus is interested in what role lawmakers from the United States could play in advancing talks with Israel, Syrian analysts said.

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa. spent the weekend traveling between Israel and Syria. In meetings with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the senator discussed a possible role as a mediator between Damascus and Jerusalem.

Ankara was acting as the mediator in talks with Israel but talks were put on hold in the wake of an Israeli raid on a Turkish-flagged vessel trying to break through a blockade on Gaza. Nine civilians were killed during the raid.

Josh Landis, author of the influential Syria Comment Web site and director of the Middle East program at the University of Oklahoma, told the Jewish Telegraph Agency that Damascus was checking what role U.S. President Barack Obama could play in the region.

"Syria is finding out if there's anything left in the Obama administration that could be useful to them," he said.

Specter has visited Damascus at least 20 times during his tenure. The U.S. State Department in its Monday briefing and the official Syrian Arab News Agency made no mention of the meetings.

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