WASHINGTON, May 19 (UPI) -- Damascus is eyeing Washington for clues of a possible shift in policy despite renewed sanctions and concerns over the border with Iraq, officials said.
Regional analysts noted Damascus reacted harshly to a Washington decision to renew economic sanctions while top U.S. foreign policy officials simultaneously pursued a modest policy of engagement.
Paul Salem, head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Middle East Center, a Beirut-based think tank, said Washington has moved cautiously in its revamped policy toward Damascus, Voice of America reports.
"The United States is not completely positive in its orientation toward Syria," Salem said. "But I think President (Barack) Obama understands that in order to make a real change in terms of Syria's regional policy will require some concessions from Israel."
Meanwhile, Imad Mustapha, the Syrian envoy to Washington, expressed hope that the news that U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell had applied for a Syrian visa was a sign Washington is moving on the Israeli-Syrian issue.
U.S.-Syrian ties, however, hit a snag recently in the wake of a U.S. Justice Department sanction of a Syrian national linked to the Iraqi insurgency and other punitive measures.
Despite the concerns, however, Jordan's King Abdullah said all signs pointed to a regional peace initiative on the horizon as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu kicks of his official visit to Washington.